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Lawyers call for full investigation into death of ex-soldier after DWP sanction

Calls for full inquiry into death of 59 year old following sanctions by the DWP

Posted on 03 March 2016

Law firm Leigh Day are calling for a full and public investigation into the death of a 59-year-old ex-soldier who died in 2013 after he was ‘sanctioned’ by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).  

David Clapson was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Signals serving in Belfast at the height of the troubles before leaving the army to work for BT. After working for the telecommunications firm for 16 years he became a carer for his elderly mother.  

According to his sister Gill Thompson, David was a proud and private man who found asking for help very difficult. David also suffered Type 1 Diabetes and relied on regular insulin shots to survive.   

He died in July 2013 from fatal diabetic ketoacidosis which occurs when a severe lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy, and the body starts to break down other body tissue as an alternative energy source.  

The Department for Work and Pensions had sanctioned him for a month, leaving him without electricity and food having stopped his £71.70 Job Seekers Allowance after he failed to attend two appointments.

In a letter to David’s MP, the DWP stated they were “aware Mr Clapson was insulin dependent”.  

With no money for his electricity meter, his family claim he was unable to chill his insulin in the height of Summer. He also was found to have no food in his stomach when he died.  

David’s sister, Gill Thompson has now started a crowd funding campaign in an attempt to secure an Inquest into her brother’s death to investigate whether the benefit sanctions contributed to David suffering fatal ketoacidosis.     

She said: “I cannot bring my brother back but I believe that if there was a full and transparent investigation into his death then lessons are not just learnt, but are acted upon to prevent anymore needless suffering of the vulnerable in our society.  

“My brother was very vulnerable yet he had his JSA allowance stopped for a month, penalised by the job centre for missing two meetings. He tried his best but was vulnerable, he had worked for over 30 years and CV’s were found just feet from his body.  

“He was not a scrounger or skiver, he was simply unwell and vulnerable and needed the caring support rather than being sanctioned without a life line.”  

In 2014 Ms Thompson started a petition with Change.org which gained over 200,000 signatures which helped to secure a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry in March 2015, which came up with 26 recommendations.  

However, the Government rejected Gill’s calls for an Independent Review into David’s death and the deaths of others in similar circumstances and rejected the recommendation of the Select Committee that the number of peer reviews into deaths of persons subject to a sanction be made public.   

The Government also refused to accept the recommendation of an independent body to conduct more reviews into the deaths of those in receipt of ‘working-age’ benefits  Government response here.  

Merry Varney from the law firm Leigh Day who is representing Ms Thompson in her fight for an inquest into her brother’s death, said:  

“David had a made a significant contribution to the wider public good, working in the Forces at a difficult time and later providing personal care for his elderly mother. At the time he needed support, he was made destitute for failing to attend a meeting.   

“Managing Type 1 Diabetes requires good nutrition and regular insulin injections. Rendering a person unable to afford food and/or unable to chill their insulin is likely to have fatal consequences. David’s death must be investigated to make sure safeguards are in place to protect others and to establish whether the DWP knowingly cut off David’s lifeline.”