Published 23 Jul 2012 1 Comment
A DISABLED West Fife man has said he would rather die than wade through any more Government red tape to keep the benefits he is entitled to.
Francis Campbell (55) suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which causes severe breathing difficulties, restricts his movement and leaves him unable to go up a staircase without the aid of an oxygen tank.
He completed the process to retain his employment support allowance (ESA) last year and was left so disgusted when he received another stack of paperwork to reapply this week that he has vowed to stop taking his medication until he receives assurances that the UK Government will stop bothering him.
Francis, from Inverkeithing, said, “They should accept that people with a long-term illness have got a long-term illness and shouldn’t be made to prove it again and again.
“You’re only getting a couple of months between each form, they make you feel as if you’re jumping through hoops with all the different stages to go through to continue getting the benefits.”
Francis’ COPD is classed as ‘severe’ and by not taking his medication he is putting his life at risk.
His family as well as his doctor have strongly advised against his protest but he is adamant that he needs to make a stand.
Francis was diagnosed with COPD in 1988, but continued working as a railway track maintenance engineer until 2005. His day-to-day life now consists mainly of sitting around the house he shares with his elderly mother and going out to the shops a couple of times a week.
He takes a number of different types of medication twice daily and spends most days hooked up to an oxygen tank for up to 16 hours.
He said, “I worked for as long as I could and I don’t feel like I’m being helped with this at all because I would prefer to still be able to work.
“When I was first on this benefit it was five years between each medical and I would accept it being reduced to three because I know they need to weed people who abuse the system but to do this annually for someone with a long-term illness is extreme.
“It’s putting me under a lot of unnecessary stress.”
The UK Government is seeking to reassess all 2.6 million people in Britain on ESA – the successor to incapacity benefit – by 2014 in an effort to cut the welfare bill and encourage more people back into work.
Claimants are being forced to fill in a work capability assessment to determine if they are entitled to the highest rate of ESA – for those deemed unable to work at all due to sickness or disability – or are considered ‘fit for work’, in which case they are put on jobseeker’s allowance instead.
Francis’ local MSP Helen Eadie recently hosted an event at Holyrood which highlighted the unfairness of the changes to benefits that are being forced upon people.
She said, “Mr Campbell is being put in an intolerable position and the authorities should think again.
“It is worth pointing that of those turned down for ESA, as many as 60 per cent win their appeals which shows that the system is just not working.”
COPD is the fifth biggest killer in the world, with an estimated 250 people dying from the disease every hour.
A DWP spokesperson said, “The Work Capability Assessment is an important part of the Government’s reforms to incapacity benefits. The old system simply wrote too many people off without looking at what they were able to do.
“Re-assessments determine what, if any, work a person could undertake, as medical conditions do change over time.
“Following the re-assessment our decision maker will decide if the claimant needs to be re-assessed and in what timescale. As said if it’s found the condition hasn’t changed following that re-assessment then s/he would be allowed to stay on Employment Support Allowance.”