Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Demonising of disabled people and the benefits assessment failures

I’ve read some horror stories over the last year or so about fellow disabled people facing difficult decisions and having to go through awful ordeals at the hands of ATOS. A bit of news i’ve come across today describing a blind woman fighting back and winning her appeal. Margaret Allen was forced to give up work after being registered blind A blind woman has won a fight to have her benefits reinstated after she was told to get a job. Margaret Allen had to give up work because of her condition but was called up to a controversial ‘fit-to-work’ assessment – part of the government’s overhaul of the welfare system. The 49-year-old has progressive retinitis pigmentosa – a degenerative incurable disorder – and is registered blind. But an assessor ruled that she was not eligible for help and told her she must go back to work. Margaret has now successfully appealed against the decision but slammed the system for making her feel like a benefits cheat. She said: “The condition gets worse every day. I was diagnosed in 1988 and continued to work until 1999. “I even went part time because I didn’t want to quit but it got to the point where I just could not work safely any longer.” Margaret, who lives with her husband Robert in Chadderton, Oldham, is among thousands of people who have had to take part in the assessments. Those who currently claim incapacity benefit, income support for illness or disability or severe disablement allowance, are being transferred to a new payment called employment and support allowance (ESA). The tests – carried out by adjudicators Atos on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – decide whether claimants are still eligible to receive support. Margaret was called up by Atos in October and claims the assessment was crude with no regard to her medical condition. She said: “The assessor sat there wiggling his fingers in front of my eyes to test me. “I took along my blind certificate which has detailed information on it and asked if they wanted to see it – but they weren’t interested.” Participants must score 15 to be deemed unable to work – Margaret scored just nine points. Nationally, almost half of the sick or disabled people assessed had their benefits removed but about a third of appeals have been upheld at tribunals. Margaret, a former warehouse assistant, had her benefits reinstated after writing a letter challenging the initial decision. Within weeks she had been reassessed as having 24 points. She is now helping other people affected by the work capability assessments through online support groups and has had her case taken up by Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher. She said: “I felt terrible and judged. It made me feel like a benefit cheat. “My whole family have worked all their lives and I worked for as long as I possibly could but I can’t live on fresh air. I’m blind not dead. “If anyone is going through the same thing please do not give up because the truth always prevails.” With extracts from http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/blind-chadderton-woman-ordered-back-1346646

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