By David Clegg
IAN MEGAHY, who spoke out at Holyrood, was assessed fit for work by Atos after being deemed too ill to use public transport after his assessment.
The case is the latest example of the trauma caused by the Coalition’s cuts. Last week, the DWP revealed more than a quarter of Scots on incapacity benefit before October 2010 had been reclassified as fit for work – in excess of 17,000 people.
The Con-Dems claim the process is designed to weed out so-called “skivers”.
But Ian, from Hamilton, laid bare the torment the process is causing to Scots with legitimate illnesses and revealed he has been relying on a wheelchair since the stress caused by the assessment, carried out by French firm Atos.
“I am a robust, strong character,” he told MSPs. “There is not many people who would say I’m a walkover – but this process has pushed me to the very edge.”
Ian said that if it was not for the support from his wife Sharon and daughters Lesley, 22, and Alison, 20, he wouldn’t have coped.
“That’s the main reason I wanted to speak out. It is doing that to somebody with superb family support and great friends. I am the person who should have it easiest – but it is an utter nightmare.”
Ian was one of three witnesses who gave evidence to Holyrood’s welfare reform committee.
He qualified as a vet in 1984 and set up his own practice before being struck down with the debilitating illness. He insists that, contrary to what the Con-Dems claim, it is the most deserving who are losing out as a result of their policies.
“I desperately want to get back to my work – I love my work. That is what makes it so particularly offensive. That is what makes it so demoralising because we all are trying our very, very best.
“But the trouble with the DWP and Atos is they demonise the very people who do try.”
He also launched an attack on UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has refused to meet the Holyrood committee.
“They say the moral test of governments and civilisations is how they care for their old, their young and their sick,”
“I would like to thank my government for caring about these matters. You certainly do not get that impression from Westminster.”
Former teacher Marlene Hepburn, from Stirling, also sent a start message to Duncan Smith. She said:
“I would just ask him, ‘Where is your heart, where is your sense?’”
Marlene told how multiple sclerosis has left her unable to lift her legs, to climb more than two steps, made her prone to falls and left her double-incontinent.
“Who’s going to employ a woman that falls over, and then has to go home and get showered?” she said. “They have no idea of the reality of living with a disability.”
The committee heard claims that Atos emphasise mobility and play down difficulties in their assessments for DWP.
Marlene said her smart appearance and tasks she does to cope with her MS, such as swimming and volunteering at an MS support group, were used to demonstrate her fitness to work.
“I have a problem with my bowels. I said I wore pads and the report said ‘she only wears pads’. I change them four times a day but that didn’t make the report.
“It was the dismissal of the fact that I had these problems: ‘They weren’t important. They didn’t impact on my life’. I felt really threatened because it was conducted with a need to get me in and out, and the fact that I sat for 45 minutes with ‘no apparent discomfort’ went against me.”
Lesley McMurchie told how her husband, a former head of offender management at Fife Council. suffered a mental breakdown after more than 30 years of work and family issues.
“The state has contributed to making him worse,”
“I thought when we set up the welfare state it was to be there for people like my husband, who worked really hard, who did his best, so that in times of need there would be something there. But it’s not there.
“He’s now not in receipt of any kind of benefits. He’s basically on the scrapheap. A very sick system has been put in place and it doesn’t have the people at its heart.”
The DWP said the previous system abandoned people to a life on benefits and insisted they’d made substantial changes to the work capability assessment.
A spokeswoman added: “Our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities and universal credit will make over three million households better off through making work pay.”