News From This Week: Work Capability Assessments
News from the last few days:
“A Chronic alcoholic who had previously suffered two broken hips and used a walking frame was told he was fit to work in a benefits test. Nine months later, John McGinty was dead. He was found at home by his son, surrounded by around 100 empty Special Brew cans…An inquest ruled the cause of death could not be determined but Cornwall Coroner Emma Carlyon said his self-neglect, injuries to his chest and hips, and his alcohol addiction, could have been factors.
Anne McGinty, who was divorced from Mr McGinty ten years ago, said afterwards his serious alcohol addiction left him with two broken hips and unable to walk without a support frame. Towards the end of 2011, he was called to Atos in Truro, the firm tasked with carrying out controversial fitness to work tests for the DWP. Mrs McGinty, who drove him there, said: “He shuffled into the building and I thought they’d take one look at him and realise he can’t work.”
But, following a medical assessment, he was deemed fit for work and his employment and support allowance and housing benefit were stopped. She said: “He was asked to raise his arms and legs, and walk a few yards, all of which he managed to do. As a consequence of this he lost his benefits. “We wrote letters appealing, detailing his health problems and alcoholism – he couldn’t even walk to the shops. “Soon after this, his drinking got worse, I think it was his way of blacking out his problems. “He wasn’t eating or looking after himself. We were worried that he would lose his house.” Mrs McGinty added: “You feel so helpless. I was shocked when they said he was fit for work when he had serious mental and physical problems. He was in a large amount of pain”.
“Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said: “We have decided we will demonstrate monthly until the DWP and the government scrap work capability assessments and until they move Atos out of the inaccessible offices they are in. The whole assessment is completely inappropriate for the majority of disabled people. If you take people with neurological, mental health conditions, cancer, they are being declared fit for work as they get no points in the assessments.”
“Edmund O’Leary, of Aspen Close, Epsom, has suffered from clinical depression and anxiety for six years after his job as a customer services trainer ended and his marriage broke down…to his horror the doctor who assessed him declared he was fit to work and he was informed that his benefits would be stopped on January 17. With the support of his mental health team at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS, Mr O’Leary has now got the decision overturned at appeal…He said: “Everything I said to the doctor was misconstrued. “I was told I didn’t get any eligibility points for turning up sober, not using bad language or travelling by bus even though I was offered a taxi”.