‘We were wrong’: Government admits it should not have axed disability benefits of Asperger’s sufferer who starved to death just five months later weighing five-and-a-half stone

Reposted from the Daily Mail


  • Mark Wood, 44, weighed 5.5st when he died after Atos cut his benefits
  • Had more than 7 illnesses including Asperger’s but told he was ‘fit to work’
  • Ordered to find employment and given just £40 a week to live on
  • Died of malnutrition after 5 months, his GP claims benefit cut ‘pushed him’
  • Today Department for Work and Pensions told family the cut was ‘incorrect’
  • David Cameron branded case ‘tragic’ and backed urgent review into Atos

A controversial decision to cut the benefits of a man who later starved to death was wrong, the Government admitted today.


Mark Wood, 44, weighed just five-and-a-half stone when he died after staff from Government contractor Atos assessed him as being fit to work – despite suffering from more than seven disabilities and illnesses, including Asperger’s syndrome.

His income was cut to just £40 a week in March last year and he was ordered find employment. He died just five months later.

Tragic: Mark Wood pictured in a healthier state before his benefit cut

'Pushed': Mr Wood was 44 when he died weighing just five-and-a-half stone, his GP said the benefit cut 'pushed him before he died'


Tragic: Mark Wood (left) in a healthier state before his benefit cut, and (right) after, having lost weight. He was 44 when he died weighing just five-and-a-half stone. His GP said the benefit cut ‘pushed him before he died’


Today a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions confessed the decision was wrong, sparking an internal review.

It comes just two days after it emerged Atos is to quit its £500 million contract early following Government criticisms.

Mr Wood’s GP Nicolas Ward has blasted the Government-backed contractor for ‘pushing him’ before he died. 

Speaking at an inquest into his patient’s death, he said: ‘Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.’

He added that he was an extremely vulnerable and fragile individual who was struggling to cope with life.

Mr Wood, from Bampton, Oxfordshire, had suffered for years from obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, phobias of food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems. 

However, in March last year Atos insisted he was fit to work.

Scandal: The Government's call for an urgent review into Atos comes two days after the firm announced it will end its £500million contract early following a stream of criticism

Scandal: The Government’s call for an urgent review into Atos comes two days after the firm announced it will end its £500million contract early following a stream of criticism




Prime Minister David Cameron described the case in his constituency as ‘tragic’ before backing an urgent investigation into Atos.

But Mr Wood’s grieving family have blasted the Government’s announcement as a ‘hollow victory’ as it will not bring him back.

His sister, Cathie Wood, said the announcement was a hollow victory because it would not bring him back.

‘We are pleased but sad,’ said 48-year-old Cathie.


Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism, often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’.

It affects how a person makes sense of the world, hampering their social communication, social interaction and social imagination.

There is no treatment for the condition and very little research on medication that is used by sufferers. 

Most people with Asperger’s are prescribed a programme of behavioural therapy.

‘They have reversed the decision – that is huge but they obviously had the information at their disposal to make the right decision and if they had done that last March Mark would not be dead.

‘It is good because it hopefully means we can now get some answers.’

Ms Wood and her mother Jill Gant appealed against the benefit cut earlier this month, acting on advice from Oxfordshire Welfare Rights (OWR).

Today, they received a letter from the DWP saying it had ‘revised’ its decision to cut Mr Wood’s benefits.


A spokesman said: ‘The coroner attributed Mr Wood’s eating disorder and food phobia as the likely cause of his death, rather than his benefits being stopped.

‘However, after receiving new evidence from Mark Wood’s GP which was not presented at the first assessment, we have revised our original decision.

‘We have written to Mr Wood’s family about this decision and are carrying out an internal review.’

Atos made £111.76m pounds operating profit in 2013.

Ms Wood added: ‘I think it is good that Atos has withdrawn but it is only part of the story – the whole system needs to be looked at.’

Suzy Drohan, joint manager of OWR, said: ‘Mr Wood lived in Cameron’s constituency and this happened.

‘We are very sorry this had had to come to light from his death. There could be other cases in which people have died too. We know there are hundreds of decisions which are not right.’

'Tragic': David Cameron has spoken out about the 'tragic' case in his constituency and backed a review

‘Tragic’: David Cameron has spoken out about the ‘tragic’ case in his constituency and backed a review


Between January 2012 and January this year OWR took 312 cases to appeals against DWP decisions and 281 were successful.

Mr Cameron said: ‘This is a tragic case and my thoughts are with Mr Wood’s family at this difficult time.’

The decision means the family doesn’t have to take the appeal to court.

Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: ‘This has been a tragic case and while this decision will not bring Mark back at least it sets the record straight. 

‘I have been very clear with the DWP that, in my view, Mark’s case was badly mishandled by Atos and that the family’s appeal needed to be dealt with as a matter of urgency and I am pleased they agreed.

‘I also welcome Thursday’s announcement that the Government’s contract with Atos to conduct these assessments has been terminated early.’

Atos refused to comment upon the reversed decision.

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