British veteran David Clapson, 59, died alone in his home after harsh welfare reforms in England left him with just $5 to his name. Clapson’s jobseeker’s allowance was cut after he missed a meeting with an advisor.
Clapson joined the military at 17 and served during the peak of The Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland. After leaving the military, he worked for the British telecommunications company BT for 16 years. He eventually left that job to work full time taking care of his mother, a dementia patient.
When his mother became too ill for Clapson to care for, she was placed in an assisted living facility. From that time on, Clapson received a roughly $100 per week allowance from the state while he looked for work.
When Clapson missed a meeting with a job advisor, his allowance was sanctioned in accordance with harsh welfare reforms enacted by the country’s conservative party. Weeks later, Clapson – a diabetic -- was found dead in his apartment. He died of diabetic ketoacidosis caused by not taking his insulin.
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Clapson had next to nothing to his name when he died. He had $5 in his bank account. His apartment was completely barren except for a few tea bags, a can of soup, and an expired can of sardines. A stack of cover letters for job applications were found on a desk in his home.
Clapson’s sister, Gill Thompson, told the Mirror she thinks her brother gave up on life due to his ongoing lack of work and money.
“I think he just gave up,” Thompson said. “I want the lessons to be learned. I don’t want anybody else to die. He shouldn’t have died like that. You wouldn’t let an animal die like that, would you? I just, I look at food now and think, ‘My brother didn’t have any.’
"My brother was not a scrounger. He was getting £71.70 a week. He was not living on champagne and caviar. They should have taken into account his past work and his condition.”
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Thompson says the loss of her brother was made worse when the Department for Work and Pensions sent her an unapologetic response to a letter she’d sent them criticizing their policies.
“The answers came back, ‘Oh well, we followed procedures,’” Thompson says. “Well I’m sorry to say the procedures don’t work if people die.”