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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Pushed over the edge by benefits fear

A WOMAN whose disabled partner was found hanged is warning of the “devastating’’ effects of impending changes to disability benefits.

Christine Graham is speaking out after attending the inquest of 49-year-old Peter Hodgson, which returned a verdict of suicide last Friday.

Mr Hodgson was found dead at his Cleator Moor home just a day after he received a text message telling him to attend the Jobcentre. He had previously sent Christine, his partner of 13 years, a text saying: “I give up.’’

Now, only days before the Disability Living Allowance is replaced by a new scheme, Christine continues to be concerned about those who face upheaval due to the changes.

“Peter was vulnerable,’’ she said. “The text scared him so much. He had been depressed for years but he could keep that under control. It was the text which pushed him over.

“I want people to realise the effect of these changes on people’s lives. These changes are terrifying to vulnerable people and their concerns need to be listened to.

“It can have a devastating effect on people’s lives. As someone said after Peter died, he won’t be the first person to die because of this, and he won’t be the last.’’

Mr Hodgson had been unable to work after he suffered a brain haemorrhage and a stroke and had his leg fused following a football injury. He had previously worked as a lifeguard and at Brannan’s Thermometers.

Christine said: “You only had to look at Peter to realise he couldn’t work.’’

Mr Hodgson also wore a calliper and couldn’t grip with his hand. He had been worried that if he didn’t take some sort of work, his benefits would be stopped.

Last July, Mr Hodgson had been called into Whitehaven Jobcentre to see whether he would be suitable for volunteer work. He subsequently received a text on the afternoon of November 26. The message didn’t state a date but a subsequent letter was sent days after Mr Hodgson’s death with an appointment for December 17.

It was this text, Christine said, which had pushed her partner over the edge.

Four months after his death, Christine is trying to move on with her life. “I’m managing and I know nothing will bring Peter back. But I still believe if he hadn’t received the text he would still be here now. He had been perfectly fine until then.’’

After The Whitehaven News ran Peter’s story in December, there was an overwhelming response from readers.

From April 8, Disability Living Allowance, or DLA – the benefit which helps many pay for care and mobility costs – is being scrapped and more than two million disabled people will lose the support they rely on. The replacement – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – is designed to cut £2.24billion annually from the welfare budget by 2015-16. The number eligible for the new award will be smaller and the assessment criteria are narrower.

According to the Government, the changes will see around 500,000 people lose their benefit.

Speaking this week about the new disability reforms, the Paralympian and campaigner Tanni Grey-Thompson, said: “People are either shown as amazing Paralympians who are competing for their country, who are incredible individuals, or benefit scroungers. What I don’t want to see is disabled people ghettoised and locked away like it was when I was young. The danger is if we just keep knocking disabled people back then we’ll turn the clock back 30 years.”

Have your say

So sorry Christine for your loss. You are doing a wonderful thing in Peter's memory by fighting to make others aware how badly those who are ill & disabled are being affected by the benefit cuts. It is so disgusting that the pressure put on Peter meant he could no longer cope. He didn't do anything to deserve that, nor did you as you are left grieving. Unfortunately you have predicted the future that lies ahead & the death rates through fear & hopelessness caused by benefit cuts will keep rising. Attitudes are changing negatively too towards anyone who need benefits even among people who are part of your local community. It is a struggle to get through each day & the future is without any hope. Unless things change drastically for the better I cannot see a way forward anymore. No one chooses to be disabled or ill & many worked until unable to so paying their way in society too. Life can change overnight causing ill health, disability & unemployment & the need to rely on benefits.... a car crash leading to paralysis...a stroke or brain bleed..a chronic disease that deteriorates leaving you unable to do the most basic of functions are a few examples. I implore everyone to think how they would feel if it happened to them & show some compassion to those who struggle to accept the limitations & enforced lifestyle they now have through no fault of their own. There are those in society who use & abuse the system but they are the minority.Please do not label everyone in the same way as it is not the case. I always worked hard all my life & detest how bad life has become now & many will feel the exact same way. R.I.P Peter & God bless you Christine x

Posted by Helen B on 5 April 2013 at 21:29

R.I.P Peter & my condolences to Christine, I keep reading these tragic stories & it has got to stop, I will be bringing your article to the attention of my local Jobcentre manager when I speak to him next week. I have already complained at the way in which his staff talk to people and traet us like low life human beings.

Posted by Paul Lomas on 4 April 2013 at 10:15

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