GARY STIRLING sat down to a Christmas dinner of macaroni and chocolate after his benefits were stopped following new government guidlines.
THE post-traumatic stress disorder sufferer’s payments were axed after he was deemed fit to work, forcing penniless Gary to rely on charity.
Benefits chiefs insist they stripped the 27-year-old of his jobseeker’s allowance twice as he didn’t keep a proper record of jobs he applied for.
But Gary claims he’s gone after more than a dozen posts and is now facing homelessness because of his plight.
In desperation, he went to a food bank and was given four tins of soup, a tin of spaghetti, a tin of macaroni, a selection box and six mince pies to see him through the festive period.
But he has no electricity at home for cooking or heating as he can’t afford it and his rent has not been paid.
“It has been murder. It was -7C one morning in the house. I have a few tins, mince pies and not much else. That’s all I have for Christmas.”
Gary was on incapacity benefit until last month when he was told to get a job by the Department for Work and Pensions following an Atos medical.
The Daily Record has highlighted the plight of hundreds of Scots following controversial fit-for-work tests carried out by the firm.
Gary received £176 a fortnight before the reassessment but since then has only had one payment of £130 and a hardship grant of £28 to last two months – about £20 a week.
He suffered burns to his hands and severe smoke inhalation saving his dog from a blaze at his home in 2008.
“I was put in a coma after the fire to prevent me from having a heart attack. I inhaled quite a lot of smoke and I still get breathless.”
The former loading bay operator applied for a string of retail jobs after being told his incapacity benefit would stop. But the Jobcentre said he hadn’t tried hard enough and stopped two benefits payments.
Gary, from Paisley, feels he and thousands of others should be getting more support from the Government.
“They are going to end up putting me out on the street.”
A DWP spokeswoman said Gary was free to appeal. She said:
“Sanctions are only used where people have not adhered to jobseeker obligations.”
Atos said the firm do not make any decision on an individual’s entitlement to benefit.
Gary is just one of thousands of people relying on food banks to get them through the festive period.
Rutherglen and Hamilton West Labour MP Tom Greatrex branded the situation a disgrace.
“Time and again we hear harrowing stories of people being hounded by the Government rather than helped.”