Seriously ill told to look for a job

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TERMINALLY ill cancer patients in Daventry are among those being told they must look for work under new benefit rules.

As of next month the Government is scrapping incapacity benefit and introducing a new employment support allowance for people who are too ill or too disabled to work.

But to qualify for the new allowance people are having to be medically reassessed, and many are finding their claims are now being turned down.

That has left many people with serious illnesses and disabilities with no option but to sign up for job seekers allowance and look for employment.

Anne Bamfield, manager of Advice Daventry, said the problem has gradually been getting worse since the Government started reassessing people at the end of February this year.

She said: “The employment support allowance has different criteria to incapacity benefit and we are finding many people are being refused it.

“This is happening even though many of these people have been claiming incapacity benefit for years and their claims have been supported by doctors who have confirmed they aren’t fit for work.

“There are even some people in the Daventry area who have terminal cancer but are now being told they are fit to work and must look for a job. We are now in the process of giving all these people advice on how to appeal. Hopefully we will be able to help them.

“What we are finding in some cases is it’s nurses who are conducting the medical tests instead of doctors, and we as an organisation are often reporting inaccuracies in many of the reports we see.

“It’s becoming a growing problem in Daventry and something we are continuing to see more and more of.”

One of those who has been refused benefits is 54-year-old Charlie Dickie, who suffers with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic systemic inflammatory disorder that affects tissues, organs and synovial joints.

Mr Dickie, from Daventry, was working for an engineering firm up until October last year and his job involved a lot of heavy lifting.

He said: “The arthritis I suffer with causes very serious pain in my shoulder, wrist and fingers.

“Last year I went on the sick in October and was on sick pay, I’ve also been in hospital and had medical tests and still have to send sick notes.

“But when I went for a medical for the employment support allowance I was told that I scored zero and am not entitled to it. I was only in there for 10 minutes and it was a nurse who undertook the tests.

“That’s not enough time to assess my illness and it seemed like they just wanted to get me in and out. Now I’ve had to go on job seekers’ allowance and look for work but if I do get a job I may be unfit to do it, and that’s not just going to affect me, but other people as well.

“I have spoke to others going through the same problems, some of them are on crutches and are still being told they are fit to work which is impossible for them.

“There are others out there on benefits who maybe can work and aren’t, but the Government shouldn’t pick on people who are genuinely ill.”