UK

Atos Fit-For-Work Row: Carer For Bolton Amputee Who Had Benefits Cut Speaks Out

25/03/2013 16:53 GMT | Updated 25/03/2013 18:30 GMT

cascade mark evans

A community worker caring for a man who was found fit for work despite previously suffering a brain tumour and having an amputated leg has described the desperate conditions of "hundreds of people" who have fallen through the net.

Denise Lonsdale, a volunteer manager at the Bolton Unemployment Advice Centre, is supporting Mark Evans with his appeal after he had his incapacity benefits cut by £440 a month.

She told the Huffington Post UK his case is one of many since the introduction of new welfare reforms and that the centre is now forced to hand out food to people coming for advice.

Mrs Lonsdale, who is a carer herself, described Mr Evan's particular case: "It shouldn't be happening. I've been looking after him since 1993 when he became ill.

"He's not the first one either, I've seen a lot more. He's one of many that it's been happening to. Mark just put the lid on it. We've got hundreds of people here who have fallen through the net."

Mr Evans had a brain tumour in 1993 and had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 after contracting deep vein thrombosis. His case was first reported in the Boston News. She said he is far from being 'fit to work,' despite what Atos found.

"These people [who perform the fit-for-work assessments] are the cruellest people in the world," she said.

"How can you sit in front on someone with one leg, a speech impediment and a brain tumour and find them fit for work?

"Mark is so thin he can't even wear a false leg, what with fitting it and everything. What kind of work could they give him?

"He tried to make a joke of it saying 'I can stack shelves but I'll have to only stack the bottom ones.' It's just so sad."

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There have been protests outside the Department of Work and Pensions over the fit-for-work assessment

She said one person who was found fit for work later died before they had a chance to win their appeal, but she said the family are devastated and want no media attention.

"People are scared to speak out in case they lose their money but we had someone who died during the appeal process after being declared fit for work. This country is going backwards.

"I get so fed up when I see the government talking about people who are claiming benefits fraudulently on the TV when they are committing fraud by denying benefits to people who need them. I just have to turn it off. I'm disgusted and disappointed in Mr Cameron. He's got as much economic sense as my nine-year-old niece.

"The Paralympics were phenomenal but the government are trying to portray that all people can do these things. They can't There's few enough jobs for the able-bodied, let alone if you're disabled."

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Protests were held outside DWP headquarters where scuffles broke out between protesters and police earlier in 2012

In a damning indictment of Cameron's big society, Mrs Lonsdale explained how they now gave out food.

"We have to give out bread and cheese to people that's been donated to us by supermarkets, when they come to see us and peoples' money has been stopped and they're hungry. It's ridiculous, you'd think we were in a third world country. The government's taking away everything, they'll take away our pride next."

She said she had experienced the cuts herself, adding "I'm a carer for my husband with Parkinsons. I get £58 a week and I have to keep the heating on all the time for him. I'm relying on the welfare state and I'm scared what change I'm going to wake up to in the morning. I paid into the system for 30 years and I always thought there would be enough to look after me in my old age but it doesn't seem that way."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The old incapacity benefits system condemned too many people to a life on benefits with little hope of moving back to work.

"Now, people who can work will be given help to find a job while those who need unconditional support will get it. Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process.

"As a result the percentage of people getting long-term unconditional support has more than doubled in two years, but everyone has the right to appeal if they disagree with the outcome of their assessment."