29 August 2015
What: Alan McArdle dies of a heart attack, just an hour after being told that DWP was threatening to stop paying his ESA. He had previously been homeless but was living in council accommodation in Slough with the support of a charity, and told the friend who had read the DWP letter to him: “They’ve sanctioned my money,” before he collapsed. The government contractor responsible for finding him work, Maximus, had reported him to DWP for failing to attend appointments intended to move him towards work, as part of the Work Programme, despite being told about his severe ill-health. McArdle, who had alcoholism and had been diagnosed with diabetes three years previously, had just come out of hospital following a fall, and had been too unwell to visit the Maximus offices. The impact of the diabetes meant he had no feeling in his arms and legs, and could hardly move. Despite his poor and deteriorating health, he had been placed in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG) – designed for those found “fit” enough to carry out some work-related activity, but not yet well enough for a job – despite efforts by those supporting him to persuade DWP he should be placed in the support group. Maximus had been told he had not been well enough to attend their appointments, but replied: “He hasn’t come in, so we will get him sanctioned.”
Why significant: Another death linked to both the WCA and the sanction system, as well as the private sector contractors that earn profits from them. Maximus had taken over the WCA contract from Atos.