THE family of a severely disabled young man who has been forced to prove he is unfit for work under the ruthless Tory welfare cuts have been told by the Department of Work and Pensions(DWP) that he will not have to go through a face-to-face work capability assessment.
Mum Deborah McKenzie, who is her son Stuart Chester’s full-time carer, told The National of her shock last month that her son, who has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, autism, cannot speak, read or write, was sent a 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in that will investigate his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.
Just days after filling in the complicated form on her 25-year-old son’s behalf, she received confirmation from the DWP that Stuart was entitled to the ESA and would be placed in a support group, which means he will not have to take part in any “work-related activity”.
Loading article content
Last week a woman whose severely disabled daughter was asked to attend a benefits interview, despite being unable to talk, launched a campaign for a national register for people with lifelong disabilities after receiving an apology from the DWP.
Danika Smith, 19, of Bury, Greater Manchester, has profound multi-complex disabilities which include spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and cortical blindness.
Her mother Donna, who is also her sole carer, thinks of her as “a forever baby” because she has the mental age of a three-month-old child. She also has no voluntary movement and is fed by a gastrostomy tube.
Despite her severe disabilities, Danika got a letter from the DWP demanding she attend a work-focused interview because she was an ESA claimant.
A DWP spokesman said: “We have a process in place which should prevent letters such as these being issued. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the process was not followed correctly. We have apologised to Ms Smith and have instigated further training to prevent this happening again.”
Deborah, 51, from Glasgow, called on the DWP to apologise to her and other families put through the stress of having to fill in the forms and face the fear of assessments. However they refused, claiming the case was different.
Deborah said: “The DWP should be apologising to all the families of disabled people who will never get any better. We were told we would have DLA for life and they have Stuart’s records. They don’t need to be sending out these complicated assessment forms which cause undue stress and upset. They are unbelievable.
“When I heard the DWP had apologised to that family in Bury, I thought we should get one too, along with all the other families they have hassled since these Tory welfare cuts have come into place.
“I sent that 20-page assessment form back to them and within days I got it back confirming Stuart’s claim for employment support allowance.
“I still think it’s outrageous that we had to fill it in at all.”
Disability campaign group Black Triangle described the DWP’s treatment of disabled people as “callous”.
Campaign manager John McArdle, said: “I really don’t think the DWP should be harassing people because they have all their records and they should refer to them for sending out assessment forms.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “It is important that we occasionally review someone’s Employment and Support Allowance claim to ensure they are getting the right level of support, rather than just automatically writing them off to a life on benefits.
“Decisions are taken after consideration of all the evidence provided by the claimant including any supporting medical evidence from their GP or medical specialist.”