After The Sun's disgusting 'scrounger' awards, it's time to recognise the biggest injustices of the benefits system

And the award for the most unqualified fitness-to-work assessor goes to...

Lee Williams
Monday 19 January 2015 14:19
The Sun's 'Welfies' awards
The Sun's 'Welfies' awards

The award season is in full swing, and last week The Sun newspaper joined the fun, publishing a feature it called “The Welfies”.

If you didn't see it, "The Welfies" is a list of "hilarious" awards that celebrate Britain’s top “scroungers and dossers” (that’s Sun-speak for people on benefits).

The article includes such rib-ticklers as the “Excess Pounds Award”, which The Sun gave to a 31-stone man for being too overweight to work. There was also the side-splitting “Put a Knot it in it Award” which went to a 32-year-old woman for having too many children. Other questionable awards included the “Carry on Claiming Award” and the “Jobdodgers Award”.

Not wanting to be left out, I have created my own not-so-humorous list of awards to give much-needed recognition to the most stellar injustices of the benefits system.

Most unqualified fitness-to-work assessor

This goes to the person who assessed almost-blind, depressed and agoraphobic Tim Salter as fit to work. He subsequently killed himself, and was found to have no food in his house or money in his bank at the time of his death.

According to Salter’s sister, the assessor was a physiotherapist, with no experience of mental health issues or knowledge of his blindness. “You’d think they would say, ‘We better tread carefully here'," she said after his death.

Most heroic attempt to get to a fitness-to-work assessment

Terry McGarvey, suffering from pneumonia, liver disease and a blood disorder called polycythaemia, was too ill to get to his fitness-to-work assessment. However, according to his brother, he was so scared that his benefits would be taken away that he dragged himself to the hearing.

Unfortunately he was so ill that an ambulance had to be called during the assessment to take the 48-year-old to hospital. He died the next day.

Most ill-timed fit-to-work letter

Double heart and lung transplant patient, Linda Wootton, died just nine days after being passed as fit to work. She received a letter saying that her employment and support allowance was being stopped as she lay dying in hospital.

Quickest fit-to-work ruling

Former nurse, Jacqueline Harris, who was partially-sighted, required walking sticks and suffered from chronic back pain, was passed fit to work by Atos. It is claimed that in her test she was only asked one question: “Did you get here by bus?” According to her sister, she hadn’t even had time to take her coat off.

Most heartbreaking double suicide

Army veteran Mark Mullins and his wife Helen were found lying side by side after committing suicide together. The couple were driven to despair 18 months after Mrs Mullins’ benefits were stopped, forcing them to live on just £57 a week. According to reports, they had walked 12 miles every week to a soup kitchen, and kept food in plastic bags in their garden because they couldn’t afford a fridge.

Most difficult back-to-work demand to carry out

Sheila Holt received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions demanding that she enter the second stage of her "intensive job-focused activity". Unfortunately she couldn’t comply as she was in a coma, and had been for several weeks.

Holt, who had severe bi-polar disorder since childhood, had suffered a heart attack after being sectioned under the mental health act because she was struggling to cope with being pushed into the government’s work programme.

According to Simon Danczuk MP, who raised the issue in Parliament, "Sheila's family repeatedly informed the DWP about this fact that she wasn't well but they continued to get harassed by those organisations.”

Death you’d least expect in this country

Last year it was reported that Mark Wood starved to death four months after his benefits were stopped. When he was found, his body weighed just 5st 8lbs. Wood, a 44-year-old man with mental health problems, including a food phobia, was passed fit to work, forcing him to live off just £40 a week in the weeks leading to his death.

Most inappropriate awards

This final award goes, of course, to The Sun newspaper. Don’t expect any teary acceptance speeches or any surprise, though. After all, The Sun has specialised in inappropriate headlines for several decades.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments