Man's fit to work plea to Government

THIS 59-year-old uses two sticks to walk, is blind in one eye, has acute breathing difficulties and has limited strength in one arm due to suffering from Polio - but today the Government says he is fit to work.

THIS 59-year-old uses two sticks to walk, is blind in one eye, has acute breathing difficulties and has limited strength in one arm due to suffering from Polio - but today the Government says he is fit to work.

For the last 15 years, John Foot has been able to claim incapacity benefit as he has been unable to work due to a catalogue of health problems.

But he now feels his honesty has seen him fall victim to the Government clamp down on benefit pay-outs.

Incapacity Benefit is offered to people unable to work through illness or disability but in 2006, as part of the Government's implementation for welfare reform, it was changed to an assessment of capability and health related interventions which would contribute to a person returning to work.

The changes have yet to be implemented but Mr Foot is convinced that measures are already in place to restrict the access of benefit for genuine cases.

Mr Foot said: “I received the results of the assessment which informed me that, from the end of January, I would not be receiving this benefit as I had scored zero points. Fifteen points are required to remain on the benefit.”

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On top of his other health problems, Mr Foot also has two prolapsed vertebrae in his lower back.

But the stern assessment criteria means that Mr Foot will have to claim Job Seeker's Allowance, a significantly lower payment than Mr Foot is used to and also means he will have to search for work.

He said: “I use walking sticks all the time and I'm unable to lift anything heavy. I have problems with standing, bending, kneeling and particularly with walking. I won't enter a building if it involves me having to use stairs.

“I feel as though I'm being punished for honestly answering the questions in the assessment. It appears that genuine cases like mine are being dealt with as though we are in receipt of benefit but fully capable of working.”

Mr Foot's benefit crisis comes just weeks after The Evening Star revealed that millions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed by people with disabilities in Suffolk.

Mr Foot is in the process of appealing to have the decision overturned with help from Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau (DAB) but has been told it could take as long as six months.

Lin Eley, DAB Manager, said: “We have every sympathy with Mr Foot. He is one of many who have fallen foul of the system and we have lodged an appeal but these things don't happen overnight. The criteria are quite clearly marked out on the assessment and must be fulfilled.”

Have you faced a similar situation? Are you happy with the benefits system? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which administers the benefit through its Jobcentre Plus division, said:

“Anyone receiving Incapacity Benefit (IB) is re-assessed by independent healthcare professionals to test whether or not they should continue receiving benefit. The DWP then makes a decision based on the advice and information provided. The regularity of these re-assessments depends on advice from doctors on when a person's condition is likely to improve. A person may lose entitlement to IB if the re-assessment deems that their condition no longer prevents them from working. This can happen when a person's health has improved over time.

In such circumstances the person will be able to apply for Jobseeker's Allowance instead and will be given help to get back into work.

If anyone thinks the decision about their benefit claim is wrong, they can ask the office who made the decision to explain it, ask to have the decision reconsidered by another decision-maker or appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal.”