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I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach joins vigil for ‘fit to work’ man who died on way home from job centre

Loach: 'It’s absolutely comparable [to the film] and it’s a monstrous injustice and the government should be driven from office'

26 January, 2017 — By William McLennan

Ken Loach addressed the vigil for Lawrence Bond in Kentish Town
AWARD-winning film director Ken Loach appeared at a vigil yesterday (Wednesday) for a man ruled “fit for work” who died from a heart attack on his way home from a Jobcentre. And he likened the case to the desperate central character in his campaigning film I, Daniel Blake.

Lawrence Bond, 56, who had multiple health problems, died in the street after leaving the Jobcentre in Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, two weeks ago.

Around 50 people were outside the centre, alongside Mr Loach and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, yesterday afternoon to mark his passing.

Mr Bond was ruled “fit to work” in July and his incapacity benefit – now known as Employment Support Allowance – was cut. He was awaiting the outcome of an appeal at the time of his death.

Lawrence Bond vigil Kentish Town

Asked if he recognised comparisons that had been made to the eponymous character Daniel Blake, who dies while attending a review of his fit-to-work ruling, Mr Loach told the New Journal: “Absolutely. He was a man of similar age, he was a man who has worked almost all his life. It’s absolutely comparable and it’s a monstrous injustice and the government should be driven from office. If they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re not competent. If they do know, they’re not fit.”

The newly-appointed shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Debbie Abrahams MP, was also at the vigil organised by Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and WinVisible disabled women’s group. The crowd called for an end to cuts to the welfare budget and chanted “we are all Lawrence Bond”.

Mr Bond, who lived in Gillies Street, Kentish Town, suffered from prolonged health problems, including mobility and breathing difficulties associated with being overweight. He was ordered to attend a “mandatory reconsideration” last year and his support was removed following a “work capability assessment”, which was carried out by private American firm Maximus. As a result, he was forced to sign on and search for work. He died in Highgate Road on January 12, shortly after leaving a Jobcentre appointment.

 

Addressing a crowd of around 50 people yesterday afternoon, Mr Loach said the government must “end the assessments by Maximus or whatever bunch of profit-making villains are put in their place”.

Lawrence Bond

The NHS, not profit-making multinational firms, should instead be funded to carry out the assessments, he said.

Mr Bond’s sister, Iris Green, told the New Journal last week that her brother had been employed since the age of 16 until two years ago when “his weight and unfitness made him unemployable”. She said his health deteriorated while he was unemployed, adding: “His anxiety was getting worse as he could not pay bills and was afraid to leave home to go to the shops. Two referrals his GP had made for mental health services had been lost and he said he felt annoyed about that.”

Mr Bond’s friend, Laila Victory, who joined the vigil, said: “Lawrence was a lovely man – a very good friend to a lot of people, a very good friend to me and my son, always very supportive to people.

“It’s a great shame that he didn’t get the help that he needed and deserved. Before Lawrence died, apparently he was trying to get an assessment to get some mental health services and he was finding it really difficult, and the anxiety of all this, I’m sure, really didn’t help.”

Ms Abrahams told the crowd: “Surely the government should have the message by now. It’s absolutely unacceptable, that a state policy around work capability assessments, around sanctions, is causing the death of people.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said in response to news of Mr Bond’s death last week: “The local Jobcentre had been supporting Mr Bond and our sympathies are with his family at this difficult time.

“ESA decisions are made following a thorough assessment and after considering all of the evidence, including that provided by a claimant’s doctor or other medical professionals. Anyone who disagrees with a decision can ask for it to be reconsidered, and if they still disagree they can appeal.”

An inquest, due to take place at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in June, will examine the circumstances surrounding Mr Bond’s death.

 

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