POLITICS
22/06/2015 07:57 BST | Updated 22/06/2015 13:59 BST

Ahead Of PM's Benefits Speech, Outrage As Man Who Cannot Walk Or Talk Questioned Over Receiving Welfare Payments

A wheelchair-bound man who can only communicate by blinking his eye was ordered to attend a Job Centre to prove he should still receive welfare payments.

According to The Leicester Mercury, the Department for Work and Pensions has apologised to Nick Gaskin, who has multiple sclerosis, after being asked to attend "training to update his skills".

Mr Gaskin's wife, Tracy, said it was "ludicrous" that Loughborough Job Centre initially insisted he still attend the appointment, despite telling officials her husband cannot walk, talk or feed himself.

Mr Gaskin, 46, has been receiving disability allowance since being diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis 16 years ago. The DWP said the letter was sent in error.

The story emerged as David Cameron outlined the Government's £12bn crackdown on welfare to end "dependency" on benefits.

In a major speech, he singled out as a target low-paid workers being taxed and then receiving top-up payments from the state - known as tax credits.

Later in the day in the House of Commons, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith defended the welfare cuts and Labour claims the vulnerable are being hit hard, arguing people with disabilities will be treated with "utmost kindness".

He told Parliament: "It is our purpose to protect the most vulnerable. It has been from the beginning and it will continue to be so.

"There is no reason why people should be fearful. I do hope Labour MPs don't start to whip that up.

"Our purpose is to reform welfare to get people back to work and ensure those who cannot and cannot manage and have disabilities are treated with the utmost kindness and utmost support."

david cameron

According to the newspaper, the letter sent to Mr Gaskin states: "You and your personal advisor will discuss the possibility of going into paid work, training for work, or looking for work in the future."

Mrs Gaskin said: "Nick communicates by blinking for yes and no.

"He has a good life but it is ludicrous to get a letter like this and to have to attend an appointment.

"When I called the number on the letter the person said if we couldn't get to the centre perhaps there could be a telephone interview.

"Nick can't speak, the man obviously hadn't been listening to me."

She added: "This is a pointless interview and a waste of everyone's time and resource.

"There has got to be a better way. Why can't we produce written evidence?"

"Nick was, and still is, a very proud man who would give anything to get up out of his chair and provide for his family.

"Unfortunately MS has stripped him of that.

"In the end we had a laugh about him learning new skills but the very serious side is letters like this going to people, especially the elderly who don't have support around them.

"It is likely to be very distressing."

A spokesman at the Department for Work and Pensions apologised and said that Mr Gaskin had been sent the wrong letter.

He added: "We wanted to give Mr Gaskin the option of attending a voluntary 'keeping in touch' meeting, and we have apologised to him for any suggestion this would be a mandatory meeting."

Ahead of Mr Cameron's speech, Employment Minister Priti Patel said the emphasis was on changing the culture of a “broken system”.

SEE ALSO:

Iain Duncan Smith Claims Labour Uses Benefits To 'Buy Votes' - And Promises Disabled People Will Be Treated With 'Kindness'

David Cameron Claims Success For 'Troubled Families' Programme, But Hints At Tax Credit Cuts