An amputee who cannot walk, struggles to talk and is brain damaged has been passed “fit for work” and had his benefits cut under government reforms.
Mark Evans, from Daubhill in Bolton, said his incapacity benefits were cut by £440 a month and has been left with just £220 to pay his monthly rent, bills and food.
The 50-year-old had received incapacity benefits, now known as employment and support allowances, since 1993 when he had a brain tumour. He also had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 after contracting deep vein thrombosis.
His case for benefits was recently reviewed as part of the work capability assessments introduced in 2010 and his employment and support allowance stopped.
He appealed against the decision to cut his monthly payments but was unable to attend a hearing 127 miles away in Workington, Cumbria, which was found against him in his absence. “It’s wrong, they were saying go there, go there, go there, and I couldn’t,” he told the Bolton News.
Denise Lonsdale, a volunteer manager at the Bolton Unemployment Advice Centre, who has been supporting Mr Evans with his case, said it would be three months before he could reapply for benefits.
She said she had seen a threefold increase in the number of people visiting since the benefit reforms were brought in.
Liam Byrne MP, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "The Work Capability Assessment is in need of fast and fundamental reform. Ministers must stop burying their heads in the sand, and fix this mess now."
The Labour MP for Bolton South-East, Yasmin Qureshi, said she would look to have Mr Evans’ case re-assessed. She said Atos, a private company that carries out the assessments, should face questions.
Atos holds £3.1bn of government contracts and recently said its trained doctors, nurse and physiotherapists used their clinical knowledge to apply government policies and criteria to each assessment. The company added that it uses government “questions and descriptors” as the basis for its tests.
A Department for Work and Pensioners spokesman said the old incapacity system “condemned” people to a life on benefits. “Now, people who can work will be given help to find a job while those who need unconditional support will get it,” he said.
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