Broken Hearts for the DWP PRESS RELEASE

Artist and activist takes protest ‘Broken Hearts for the DWP’ to Caxton House as part of radical art action programme Section 136

What is happening?

On Monday 22nd July 2019 at 11am, artist and activist Dolly Sen will be staging an action outside DWP head office at Caxton House, Tothill St, Westminster, London SW1H 9NA, called ‘Broken Hearts for the DWP’.

Dolly will be accompanied by disability rights activists and family members who have lost loved ones due to DWP benefit cuts.

This will take the form of a peaceful protest outside the entrance to Caxton House on the pavement. Those taking part will hold up large broken hearts with the names of people who have died. This is to remember, in a personal and human way, people who have not survived the cuts.

There will be a filmmaker present to capture events. Section 136 is Artist and Activist Dolly Sen’s radical mental health art-action programme where madness is questioned, and institutional monsters are confronted.

Why it’s happening

This is a symbolic protest to remember those who have not survived the cuts. Each person will carry a large red heart with the name of a person who has died due to DWP cuts. We are concentrating on 4 names, even though there are thousands to choose from. These hearts were once beating, but the building behind it helped those hearts to stop forever.  These names cannot speak for themselves any more, we as fellow disabled people, are going to show we mourn these hearts stopping. The government is deeming people ‘fit to work’ despite being dying of cancer, unable to leave their beds, having heart attacks during assessments.

Dolly says, “Disabled people feel like they are being treated in a similar way to how disabled people were treated in Nazi Germany. Not quite led into gas chambers, but put into a lose-lose situations where they have no money, no support, no hope and no food in their fridge. They feel like the public don’t care because there is little outrage. Is it any wonder some end their lives because of it?”

The UN have recently described what is happening in the UK as a “human catastrophe” due to “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights under successive Conservative governments.

One of the participants taking part is Joy Dove, Jodey Whiting’s mum. Joy said, “I miss her so much, if I can help others, Jodey won’t have died in vain. I will be proud to hold her name up but I’m sad it came to this through the DWP’s failings.”

Facts & figures (based on United Nations reports)

  • 62% of people that the DWP sanctions live with mental health issues.
  • 10,600 people died after their benefit claims ended.
  • 90 people a month are dying after the DWP declares them ‘fit-for-work’.
  • 590 people have taken their own life due, in part, to DWP fit-for-work tests.


We want:

  • The ending of assessments that are not fit for purpose, which have done things like find people with terminal cancer, people who cannot feed themselves, and people in hospital, fit for work. These unfair, punitive, devastating assessments have also driven people to suicide.
  • Recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist, and that it is damaging to people’s mental health.
  • The DWP to make radical changes to its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority.

The names of the people written on the ‘Broken Hearts’:

Jodey Whiting. Jodey was a mother and 42 years old when she died. She was penalized for not attending a benefit assessment by having her benefits stopped. She couldn’t attend the assessment because she was seriously ill in hospital.

Stephen Carre, 41, struggled with depression and anxiety to the point he never left his house. He ended his life after being found fit for work. His GP and psychiatrist were not asked to provide evidence. On his appeal form, he wrote that the assessment arranged by the DWP “bears no relation to the medical I had.”

 Mark Wood, 44, was found fit for work against doctor’s advice. He had complex mental health needs. His benefits were stopped. He starved to death.

Susan Roberts, 68, took her own life two days after learning of her failed PIP appeal.