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Wednesday, October 09, 2013
By Dominic Howell
A 47-YEAR-OLD man overdosed on a cocktail of drugs after he had his benefits stopped because he was not given a proper medical assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions, an inquest heard.
Edward Jacques was found dead in his house in Loughborough Avenue, Sneinton, on September 25 last year. He had a history of self harm and depression, which stemmed from physical and emotional abuse as a child, the inquest was told.
Mr Jacques’ family told the Post they considered the decision to stop his benefits was a “major trigger” in a spiral which led him to overdose on heroin, cocaine and alcohol.
Mr Jacques was told his benefits of £90-a-week would be stopped on September 18 last year, the same day he took to social networking site Facebook to vent his frustration at Prime Minister David Cameron and Atos – the company which carries out medical assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.
The assessments determine whether a person is eligible for employment and support allowance.
After writing of his disapproval of the system he wrote on Facebook:
“It’s time to say goodbye, goodbye.”
At his inquest, which lasted two days, the court heard that Mr Jacques’ medical assessment took just 23 minutes and his allowance was stopped despite him suffering from HIV, hepatitis C, sciatica, severe depression, insomnia and dental pain.
The Nottinghamshire coroner, Miss Mairin Casey, branded it a “crude assessment”.
“I find the assessment process in Edward’s case did not fully or properly reflect Edward’s physical and mental health at that time.
“It is conceded by those involved in the [assessment] process that if the information as to Edward’s physical and mental health as shared by his GP had been known at the time of the assessment, the outcome would have been very different. It is desperately sad that such evidence was not available either to the nurse or to the decision maker.”
Mr Jacques’s GP at Sneinton Dale Surgery, Dr Prit Chahal, said that the assessor arrived at a conclusion which was “not in line with his professional view” of his patient.
Giving evidence on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, Jag Sanghera, said:
“The more evidence that is sought the easier the decision maker’s job.”
Mr Jacques’s elder brother, Richard Jacques, 58, and his twin sister Margaret Hudson, 48, said:
“We have no doubt that the decision to stop his allowance was a major trigger which led him on to a severe depression and desperate action.
“We do not believe that Edward is an isolated case and we think thousands of assessments have been made like this across the country.”
Miss Casey recorded a narrative verdict.
“Edward Jacques died as a result of central nervous system depression following a drug overdose and alcohol consumption. It is not possible for me to say if he intended that this action would result in his death.”
A DWP spokesman said:
“Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mr Jacques. A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist. The percentage of people entitled to employment and support allowance is now at its highest level with over half of people completing a work capability assessment eligible for the benefit.”
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