Published: 18 January, 2017
By WILLIAM McLENNAN
A MAN collapsed and died in the street after being ruled “fit to work” and forced to sign on.
Lawrence Bond, 56, suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after leaving Kentish Town Jobcentre on Thursday. His sister, Iris Green, said that he was in obvious “physical distress” when he arrived at the offices in Kentish Town Road, adding that staff are faced with an “awful dilemma”.
“I do feel really sorry for the people who dealt with him,” said Ms Green. “They face an awful dilemma of being the people responsible for collecting signatures for people signing on as fit for work, even when they can see people are very sick.”
Mr Bond suffered from prolonged health problems, including difficulty with mobility and breathing, associated with being heavily overweight. But his incapacity benefit, now known as Employment and Support Allowance, was cut following a second “work capability assessment”, which was carried out by American private firm Maximus in July.
A subsequent appeal was turned down and Mr Bond was awaiting the outcome of a second appeal at the time of his death, his sister said.
Ms Green, said: “I realise that the reception staff have no clinical knowledge or responsibility for doing it, but the rules need to be changed so that they have the right and discretion when they see a human being turning up in physical distress to flag the situation up and ask for urgent re-assessment.”
Mr Bond, who lived in Gillies Street, went to visit a friend in Highgate after leaving the Jobcentre and was boarding the 214 bus in Highgate Road when he collapsed. Paramedics battled to revive him in the street, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
His sister said: “I think he suffered from anxiety all his life, but held down regular jobs and was never out of work from the age of 16 when he trained as a car mechanic, then did computer studies and went to companies fixing computers, photocopiers, cash tills – so he had his van which he felt safe in – but, of course, his diet was shocking so he put on weight.
“He lost his last long-term job two years ago and by then his weight and unfitness made him unemployable.”
Ms Green 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.”
“He functioned very well when he had a job, and money, and a van and functioned as a productive tax-paying member of society, but he was frustrated that, although he was an intelligent person, he could not seem to get his needs met.
“The main thing is that they have the means to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We have such a tick-box society. If we can change that, then people can flag things up and really help someone.”
A spokeswoman for the London Ambulance Service said: “We were called at 4.57pm on Thursday, 12 January, to reports of an incident at Highgate Road.
“We sent an ambulance crew, three single responders in cars and an advanced paramedic to the scene. The first of our medics arrived at the scene in under seven minutes.
“Sadly, despite the best efforts of our crews, a patient died at the scene.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “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.”