This Week’s News

by richardhutton

‘Amputee declared “fit to work” and has his benefits cut’:

“MARK Evans cannot walk, has to rely on a mobility scooter and struggles to talk after a tumour left him brain damaged. But the 50-year-old has been declared “fit for work” and had his benefits cut by £440 a month, leaving him with just £220 to pay his rent, bills and buy food. Mr Evans, from Daub- hill, has received Incapacity Benefit, now known as Employment and Support Allowance, since 1993 when he suffered a brain injury because of a tumour…

Mr Evans — who had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 due to deep vein thrombosis — launched an appeal, which was recently heard 127 miles away in Workington, Cumbria. But because of his disability he was unable to travel to the hearing and the case was found against him in his absence.

If his appeal is unsuccessful “Mr Evans, faces a three- month wait before he can make a fresh claim for benefits — and in the meantime must survive on just £220…The Jobcentre won’t accept him because he’s not fit for work, so he can’t have Employment Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance”.

His caseworker at the Bolton Unemployed Advice Centre adds that her workload has trebled in the past 12 months because of the impact of welfare reforms, the economic downturn, and cuts to other advice services: “I’m dealing with between 150-200 people a week, people are coming in Saturdays and Sundays and we’re even giving out bread.” (Bolton Daily Mail)


‘Bedroom tax sting for kidney patient with dialysis machine in spare room’:

“A grandad suffering from chronic kidney disease is facing a bedroom tax benefits cut despite his spare room being specially fitted with a dialysis machine to treat his condition. Stephen Palmer must receive dialysis up to three times a week using a machine fitted inside the spare bedroom of his housing association property.

But the ex-security guard, who is unable to work because of his condition, has been told he is not exempt from the UK Government’s “bedroom tax”, which will cut benefits for people with a spare room. Mr Palmer, 49, of Llanbradach, near Caerphilly, fears he and his partner could be left homeless if they lose £728 in annual benefits due to the reforms” (Wales Online).


‘Father tells of financial and emotional turmoil after “flawed” work test assessment’

“A father who was denied almost £5,000 in benefits after wrongly being assessed as fit to work has spoken of his ten months of financial and emotional turmoil. Last night the MS Society described the fitness to work test faced by Graham Newton, from Darlington, as “flawed” – and said many more people with the disease have fallen foul of the system. Mr Newton was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2008 after suffering with symptoms for several years. He received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in March last year, saying his Employment and Support Allowance payments were being stopped” (Northern Echo)


‘Changes in the benefits system can worry the sick into a worse state’

“I recently spoke to a patient who is on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and has just had her Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Having managed her condition for many years, and previously worked for many years, she clearly knows her work capability better than anyone. She was interviewed on her own by a GP (no advocate was available). She asked the GP about what qualifications he had to carry out an assessment on someone with a serious mental illness; he didn’t seem at all happy about the question and condescendingly told her that all GPs have some psychiatric training. She was then asked some very patronising questions and made to do some simple arithmetic and spelling. Finally the doctor proclaimed: “Your brain works okay then!”

In a recent episode of the Radio 4’s All in the Mind a patient recalled that when she received letters in the post summoning her to attend a WCA she was too ill to open them and her anxiety was increased – but ultimately her failure to deal with the process due to her illness led to her benefits being cut.   Some people may think that I’m making excuses here. Some will say that there are people who will play up to being “stressed” and “depressed” by the WCA process.   I would agree that some people do abuse the welfare system but we cannot punish those who really need benefits because of those who exploit it.  Using a harsh and indiscriminate assessment processes with people who are genuinely unwell, and then forcing them back to work when they are not ready, will make them even more ill and even less able to work. In the long term this will cost society more because it will make the possibility of returning to work even more remote for many people” (Wales Online).


‘Brain injured face benefits ‘trap”

“Steven Walker has had his benefits removed and reinstated three times in the last two years. He suffered a severe brain injury when he had an epileptic seizure. He explained: “They don’t realise the effect of the brain injury, and they don’t ask you true questions. “They just ask you standard questions which require a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. It’s all very worrying because then you have to go to appeal. It’s not very fair” (BBC)