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03 February 2015 The Independent by Kunal Dutta

 
Malcolm Burge, 66, had previously written to Newham Council telling them he was 'depressed, stressed and suicidal' because of the demand
 
A retired gardener took his own life after begging for help when changes to his benefits left him owing more than £800 – in a case that highlights the bureaucratic cruelty of the welfare system.
 
Malcolm Burge, 66, killed himself at Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, after being pursued for the sum by his local authority, an inquest into his death has heard.
 
He had previously written to Newham Council telling them he was “depressed, stressed and suicidalâ€. 
 
“I have no savings or assets. I am not trying to live, I am trying to survive. I can’t remember the last time I had £800.â€
 
West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said he would write to Newham Council to encourage them to establish a system to help the “most vulnerable†residents deal with the benefits system, after examining the case of the pensioner, who took his own life on 28 June last year.
 
Letters presented to the inquest revealed Mr Burge had tried repeatedly to seek help and telephone the council but had been bounced around an electronic switchboard.
 
Government changes to welfare in January 2013 meant his weekly housing benefit, paid by Newham, should have been slashed from £89.39 to £44.75 – but this was not implemented due to a “backlog†at the authority. Mr Burge continued to receive the higher amount – and was shocked when the authority issued a demand for an £809.79 overpayment.
 
Describing the case as “tragicâ€, the coroner said: “Mr Burge had obviously been caught up in the change of the benefits system. In fairness to the council they have admitted failure due to a backlog.â€
 
Mr Rose continued: “People of this age don’t always have laptops or iPads and can’t use the internet. It is almost an excuse now to ignore one’s responsibilities and say ‘look up the website’.â€
 
In his ruling Mr Rose criticised the response of Newham Council, which sent 10 letters asking for the money. “They didn’t fully address Mr Burge’s queries and their tone was not appropriate,†he said. “It seems clear he was a man who needed help and was in distress. Unfortunately, Newham Borough Council were unable to give it to him.
 
“There was no deliberate attempt to avoid payment, he was overwhelmed by the sum. The council were overwhelmed by the number of cases that they had.†The coroner concluded that Burge had taken his own life.
 
Mr Burge’s niece Sharon Watts said the man had lived in the City of London cemetery with his parents throughout his life. In 1992 his mother died and so Mr Burge became a full-time carer for his father. “He devoted his entire life to helping his father,†Mrs Watts said. “None of us knew. His pride kept him away from asking us and we would have helped him.â€
 
A Newham Council spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Burge. In our submission to the coroner, we acknowledged delays and deficiencies in our extensive correspondence through letters and phone calls with Mr Burge. We are sorry if this contributed to his death in any way.â€
 
Suicide is a preventable cause of death and anyone who feels they may be at risk should contact The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

 

 

Another sign of a downward spiral.

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My God.

 

Sometimes, I do not recognise this so called society that we live in. Was this mans life worth so little?

 

When are folks going to start waking up to the fact, that things need to change. So much now needs to be done,to repair the damage, that I fear much of it will not be achieved in my lifetime.

 

Truly depressing.

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Judging by this article in the Daily Mail 2nd February 2015 justice is being tipped on its head.

 

 
* Officials forced to remove 'terribly wrong' guidance for disabled people
* It suggested suspects had to prove innocence when accused of a crime
* Mukul Chawla QC said this went against 'fundamental' British law
* 'Presumption of innocence' is a right with origins in the Magna Carta
 
A leading QC condemned the error saying it went against a 'fundamental' cornerstone of British law which placed the burden of proof on the prosecution.
 
The simplified guide, which was aimed at those with learning difficulties and a limited grasp of English, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process.
 
'The MoJ is not in a good state internally; but telling people with learning difficulties that they are guilty if accused of serious crimes unless they can prove they are innocent is surely a low-point.'
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While at the other end of society the sleaze continues. 

 

The Guardian today

 

 
Revelations of collusion with wealthy and criminal clients in tax malpractice triggers furious response around the world
 
While France, Belgium, Spain, the US and Argentina have launched legal proceedings against HSBC and its high net worth clients, the UK’s tax authority has in five years used the data to bring only one prosecution.
 
Meanwhile, neither HM Revenue and Customs, the Serious Fraud Office nor the Financial Conduct Authority have taken action against HSBC.
 
I see HSBC have moved on after laundering profits for Mexican drug cartels, while ordinary people seeking help with financial problems get passed by and their assets stolen.
 
Meanwhile, while a lot of people are resorting to food banks
 
Guests paid £1,500 a head to feast on a starter of smoked salmon with horseradish; a main course of confit of lamb neck with celeriac and a haggis sauce; and to finish, panacotta with rhubarb and mint oil. It was washed down with champagne, a red Bordeaux and sauvignon blanc.
 
The chance to shop with May, who is known for her love of shoes, included tea, an outing to Bond Street and a £500 shoe voucher. The meal with Javid was for four people to attend the exclusive Carlton Club along with his wife Laura. Other prizes included dinner at home with Michael Gove, the chief whip, and a session of jogging with Nicky Morgan, the education secretary.
 
Enough said.
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That is a very sad case which nobody in Authority at Newham Council , London would take responsibility for .

 

What I will say , without breaking any confidences, is that during my volunteer work with SSAFA at the Military Help Desk , Franklin House , is that my colleagues and I have always found the Council Customer Services plus the other Departments accessed through Customer Services very helpful , not just to us but the Clients we signpost to the relevant Department. This includes problems with the relevant Council Benefits .

 

The Military Help Desk is open 1000 - 1400 on Tuesday's SSAFA and Thursday's TRBL

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  • 1 month later...
Reading this disturbing article today in The Idependent about:

 
Britons are struggling with debt in unprecedented numbers, according to a report published this week.
 
More than half a million people  â€“ 577,677 – have sought help in the past year alone, their individual debts averaging £14,650, the report by debt charity StepChange says. It also warns that the number of people needing help to manage their debts has risen by 56 per cent since 2012.
 
People seeking debt advice are as likely to be in full-time work as unemployed. But those on benefits are fighting a losing battle to stay out of debt, with people on Jobseeker’s particularly hit.
 
StepChange is funded by the major banks who obviously have an interest in the debts.
 
Thinking locally of whom to turn to in dealing with debt, the charity Citizens Advice Bureaux is the usual source. Not only helping people with money problems, but on a range of subjects including benefits, housing and employment, consumer and legal issues. I remember reading a letter early this year where the CAB were mentioned concerning future funding cuts. This letter explained why this was so and highlights the attack by this government on withdrawing help for vunerable people.
 
First published Friday 30 January 2015 in Hereford Times Letters

Using Care Act to justify axing
 
HEREFORDSHIRE Council is to axe its funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau using the new duties in the Care Act 2014 as a justification for this decision.
 
Herefordshire CAB is one of the best performing CABs in the country and operates in a county with no legal aid providers for those needing help on housing, community care, mental health or welfare benefits problems.
 
Herefordshire has many charities providing advice but none is equipped to fill the legal aid gap and take on the council when it is behaving badly.
 
I suppose it is not surprising that the council has used the pretext of new legislation to rid itself of this turbulent independent force. Its attempt to do this last year was only reversed after the Bishop made an impassioned intervention.
 
I was the special adviser to the parliamentary committee that scrutinised the Bill that became the Care Act and am horrified that it is being used to justify the axing of the grant.
 
There is much in the Care Act that is good, but the cynics have argued that the Act is part of the government’s attack on public services. I had hoped that this was not so, but we are now seeing a Tory council using it as a justification for just such a purpose.
 
As someone who lives in Hereford, the only public service that I can see thriving here is the food bank (charitable, of course).
 
This is a council that has cut everything except the grass and is now sullying an Act that could have been used to do good. It should be ashamed of itself.
 
PROF LUKE CLEMENTS 
Cardiff Law School
 
 
The CAB website is now displaying the following message:
 
 
On Friday 16th of January Herefordshire Council formally decided to withdraw the annual grant they provide to support our work from April 2015.
 
This means that from this April we will suffer a major cut in our funding of over £117,000 which may put our services at risk.
 
We believe that the people of Herefordshire deserve support with many of life’s problems, like losing a job, being discriminated against or losing their home and that the CAB service is the best organisation to help people get the advice they need.
 
If you believe this too, please help us show Herefordshire Council that they’ve made a mistake by withdrawing our funding and ask them to reverse their decision.
 
Herefordshire Council’s grant to Herefordshire CAB is £117,460 per year.  With Herefordshire’s population standing at 186,000, this is expenditure of less than £1 per person.
 
In 2013/2014 Herefordshire CAB helped over 5,100 people with over 13,100 advice issues such as housing, welfare benefits, employment,  family and relationship, money and debt and a range of other legal issues.  During the year, the bureau improved the financial position of our clients by just over £4.4 million.
 
We believe that access to justice is a fundamental part of a fair and decent society and the CAB supports many clients each year who have not been served well, quite often by statutory agencies.  
 
The CAB is a well-established charity with a proud history, highly regarded and trusted by members of the public. Our service is free, independent, confidential and non-judgemental.
 
We're the only service in Herefordshire that provides free information and advice, to anyone about any kind of legal problem. Without the funding we receive, we won't be able to continue offering the same service to those people in Herefordshire who most need our help.
 
We believe advice is important. We believe advice makes a difference. We believe advice matters!
 
 
The council's withdrawal of £117,000 is after all only 8 tables paid for by Tory donors (see above) to get an audience with David Cameron and his cronies.
 
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