Occasionally, there’s one of those news stories that really get to you, this has one in particular, there’s various reasons why, firstly it’s local, I’ve walked the same streets as this couple, I’ve attended the same job centre, dealt with the same staff there, sat in the same CAB (Citizens Advice Bureaux) waiting room, it’s to close to home to ignore and also as someone who has successfully negotiated the twists and turns of the benefits system a feel for somebody who hasn’t been so lucky. If you’ve had you’re head buried in the sand over the last few days you would have missed the harrowing reports of Helen and Mark Mullins, an unemployed couple from Bedworth who were found dead lying side by side in their home a couple of days ago.
Mark had served in the Army and Helen was learning disabled, for a period of just over a year they had been living off just Mark’s JSA (Jobseeker’s allowance) which is hardly enough for one person to live off let alone two. Helen’s 12 year old daughter had been taken into care and the couple had been shoved pillar to post by the benefits system. Helen was told by Jobcentre staff that she wasn’t able to work (I’ve been told that one too, despite being a graduate and urged to switch over to ESA) and should claim Employment and Support Allowance and DLA. Myself, unlike Helen I have a formal diagnosis from a consultant, I also have psychiatrist, who until recently was based just around the corner from Bedworth Jobcentre, and only when he suggested I go on to ESA I made the decision to switch – in my opinion, I would be a valuable employee. In order for Helen to claim ESA and DLA she needed a formal diagnosis which as we all know can take a very long time. It took the couple 14 months to get the benefits that Helen was entitled to, after many appeals (this is all I the vid attached). It seems to me that the authorities were keen to take away from them, but give them the support that they needed to live as a family, at this moment I can’t imagine the pain that Helen’s 12 year old daughter must be going through having lost both her mum and her step dad in such unavoidable circumstances. At the moment the Police are investigating their suicide, but in my opinion someone is to blame. I was having a discussion on Facebook following the posting of a news article about the couple with a lady how used to advise mental health service users in the Warwickshire area and have found some of what she has told me horrifying. (At this point a look at this map might be helpful so you know the areas I’m talking about - warwickshire.gov.uk/web/cor... ) Two inpatient units for mental health patients have been closed in the past 3 years (one I know of in Nuneaton) leaving just the Caludon Centre in Coventry which covers the whole of Coventry and Warwickshire, imagine visiting relative everyday if you live in Atherstone or Stratford! The crisis service is manned by just 2 people from 9pm to 9am (no wonder I was told to take myself off to A&E if I felt suicidal) and often have to call on the police to support them – imagine that, you’re at breaking point, suicidal, you’re not going to harm anyone except yourself and the police turn up!! Frightening. To top it all both Dial (a disability advice service in Bedworth) and CAB have had cuts made to their budgets, thus re unable to offer the service that they once did.
As an individual this hits hard, although I didn’t know Mark and Helen I feel that had I met them walking along Bedworth High Street that I should have bought them lunch at Wetherspoons and given them some money to spend in Aldi, but like most people they were invisible and like myself blended into the fabric of a small provincial town and no thought given about what their lives must be like. The Mullin’s would walk into Coventry city centre once a week to pick up a bag of vegetables that Mark would cook into a stew; it’s a long walk into Coventry city centre.
In this harsh climate (financial) Mark and Helen won’t be last victims claimed by the cuts, I haven’t yet heard any politicians or governmental pen-pushers express anything yet regarding their tragic yet unavoidable deaths. I’m sure they’ll be sleeping soundly in their beds tonight unlike Helen’s young daughter.