Mark Wood: 'Sweet and gentle' 44-year-old man with mental health problems 'starved to death after benefits cut'

Wood, who weighed just 35kg when he died, was deemed to be fit for work which led to his sickness and housing benefits being cut

A “sweet and gentle” 44-year-old man with mental health conditions appears to have starved to death after his benefits were cut.

Mark Wood, of Bampton, Oxfordshire, was deemed to be fit for work, which led to his sickness and housing benefits being cut about four months before his death in August last year. This had left him with £40 a week to live on.

His family, who were unaware his benefits had been reduced, said he was a “proud” man who tried to live independently. They called for the Government to change the way people with mental health problems are treated in relation to benefits, The Guardian reported.

Coroner Darren Salter said Mr Wood’s death was probably “caused or contributed to by Wood being markedly underweight and malnourished”, but added it was not possible to establish the cause of death conclusively.

Mr Wood weighed just 5st 8lbs — 35kg — when he died and his doctor, Nicholas Ward, said this body mass index was incompatible with life.

Dr Ward wrote a letter for Mr Wood to give to the Jobcentre, which said he was “extremely unwell and absolutely unfit for any work whatsoever”.

“Please do not stop or reduce his benefits as this will have ongoing, significant impact on his mental health. He simply is not well enough to cope with this extra stress. His mental and medical condition is extremely serious,” the letter added. It is not known if Mr Wood gave the letter to the Jobcentre.

Mr Wood’s sister, Cathie Wood, told The Guardian that her “sweet and gentle” brother had not opened many letters sent to him and had not known he had to go to the Jobcentre to reapply for benefits.

“He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't harming anyone,” she said.

“He was quite a proud person. He would have wanted to be seen as normal. He was desperate to get by as normal … He didn't want to impose on our mother. He wanted to survive without her help.”

Mr Wood was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder in his late 20s. He later developed an eating disorder and cognitive behavioural problems.

Ms Wood said she planned to write to David Cameron, who was her brother’s MP, and to Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary.

“I would like Iain Duncan Smith to stop talking about this as a moral crusade, and admit that this whole process of reassessing people for their benefits is a cost-cutting measure … This is not just someone being inconvenienced – this is a death,” she said.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant's GP or medical specialist. Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr Wood.”

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said they were “deeply saddened” by Mr Wood’s death.

“Unfortunately this tragic case is not an isolated incident. We hear too often how changes to benefits are negatively impacting vulnerable individuals, who struggle to navigate a complex, and increasingly punitive, system,” he said.

“We know the assessment process for those applying for employment and support allowance is very stressful, and too crude to accurately assess the impact a mental health problem has on someone's ability to work. This leads to people not getting the right support and being put under excessive pressure which can make their health worse and push them further from the workplace.

”We urgently need to see a complete overhaul of the system, to ensure nobody else falls through the cracks.“

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Account Executive

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you starting out in PR? Do...

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Luxury Brand - Retail Sales Assistant - Part or Full Time

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Luxury Jeweller and Accessories - Retail Sale...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most