HENRY SHERLOCK – who is blind – said the French firm made him jump through hoops to find out whether he was fit for work.
A BLIND Scot yesterday told MSPs the axemen hired to slash benefits made disabled people “feel like criminals”.
Henry Sherlock, 50, gave his heartbreaking testimony to Holyrood’s welfare reform committee.
It came as pressure intensified on the Con-Dem Government over welfare reforms set to devastate the most vulnerable in society.
Henry said he had been “bullied and harassed” by Atos Healthcare, the French firm slammed for carrying out the humiliating eligibility tests for the Department for Work and Pensions.
Henry suffers from chronic heart disease, diabetes and depression. But he was made to jump through hoops in a “horrible” assessment to determine whether he was fit for work.
He said: “It’s like doing a crime. I am a human being who needs additional support but here I am facing a panel who are making a decision on my life.
“I am tired of fighting officials who seem to think they know more about my disabilities and needs than I do. It now makes me feel ashamed of who I am.
“I am being punished for being disabled and feel powerless.”
Disabled Scots have lined up to condemn the reforms that will see disability living allowance replaced with personal independence payment.
Every disabled person who qualified for DLA faces tough assessments to see if they will get the new benefit.
Thousands will lose out, with the Government expecting a 20 per cent cut in the benefit bill.
The welfare reform committee yesterday heard that:
The cuts will cost many disabled their homes and relationships.
Something as trivial as being clean or having good manners is used as evidence that disabled people are fit for work.
Many of those affected have no idea the changes are coming.
The changes could actually cost more money due to the number of appeals being lodged.
Henry outlined the devastating impact of losing his benefits. He said: “I would not be able to afford to use my computer. This is the only way of providing me with information and communication.
“I would not be able to afford to use the internet, which will cut me off from family and friends. I would not be able to afford the high cost of assistive technology, which will leave me in danger.”
Janice Scott, whose 62-year-old husband was disabled by an accident and a stroke, told MSPs that Atos were twisting assessments to cut benefits.
The Edinburgh woman said: “I can honestly say there are lies that go into that assessment. I do shorthand and I took down word for word my husband’s whole assessment. What actually came back was practically the opposite of everything he said.
“Atos question you in such a way and twist it round so they make you out to be practically an athlete.
“It traumatises and upsets a lot of people who feel that they have been made out to be liars.”
As revealed in yesterday’s Record, Norman Gray, the dad of Special Olympics gold medallist Andrew, felt betrayed by welfare changes that could end his son’s dreams of an independent life.
He told MSPs: “The worst scenario we can envisage is that he would have to give up his house and come back to live with us. But that defeats the purpose of living a normal, independent life.”
Committee convener Michael McMahon said the reforms were unacceptable, adding: “They should improve people’s lives, not make them worse. What we saw today was tangible proof that these reforms are doing just that.
“One of the most shocking things is that people who take pride in their appearance and make an effort are finding this actually being used against them.
“Atos have questions to answer and they can’t just hide behind what they are doing by saying they are only acting on the instructions of the Government.”
Nationalist MSP Annabelle Ewing said: “When you have someone who is trying to get the benefits they need telling you they feel like they are being treated like a criminal during assessment, something clearly is not working.
“I find it disgusting there is no discretion in the welfare system and do not know how it is possible to run it this way.”
Disability campaigners Inclusion Scotland estimate 74,000 disabled people in Scotland will be stripped of benefits.