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
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Software Development Project Manager - Kingston Upon Thames

£55000 - £60000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Experienced Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders