The Bolton News Saturday 23rd March 2013 in News
MARK Evans cannot walk, has to rely on a mobility scooter and struggles to talk after a tumour left him brain damaged.
But the 50-year-old has been declared “fit for work” and had his benefits cut by £440 a month, leaving him with just £220 to pay his rent, bills and buy food.
Mr Evans, from Daub- hill, has received Incapacity Benefit, now known as Employment and Support Allowance, since 1993 when he suffered a brain injury because of a tumour.
But he had his case reviewed in a Work Capability Assessment as part of a government drive to overhaul the benefits system and his Employment and Support Allowance was stopped.
Mr Evans — who had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2004 due to deep vein thrombosis — launched an appeal, which was recently heard 127 miles away in Workington, Cumbria.
But because of his disability he was unable to travel to the hearing and the case was found against him in his absence.
Mr Evans said:
“It’s wrong, they were saying go there, go there, go there, and I couldn’t.”
He has now had his benefits cut from £760 a month to just £320 —and £100 of that has to be spent paying for his mobility scooter so he can have some independence.
Denise Lonsdale, volunteer manager at Bolton Unemployed Advice Centre in Deans- gate, has been fighting to have Mr Evans’s benefits reinstated.
She said if she can not overturn the decision, Mr Evans, faces a three- month wait before he can make a fresh claim for benefits — and in the meantime must survive on just £220.
Ms Lonsdale said:
“They had this appeal in Workington but he couldn’t get there.
“The Jobcentre won’t accept him because he’s not fit for work, so he can’t have Employment Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance.
“Because his money has been stopped he’s got no money for gas and he needs to keep warm because of his ampu- tation.” This week, Mr Evans was given a crisis loan of £142 to pay his rent and bills, which he has to repay at £8 a week.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The old incapacity benefits system condemned too many people to a life on benefits with little hope of moving back to work.
“Now, people who can work will be given help to find a job while those who need unconditional support will get it. Since 2010 we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment process.
“As a result the percentage of people getting long-term unconditional support has more than doubled in two years, but everyone has the right to appeal if they disagree with the outcome of their assessment.”
Ms Lonsdale, a former care worker who has volunteered at the centre for the past 24 years, says Mr Evans’ case is not a one off.
She says her workload has trebled in the past 12 months because of the impact of welfare reforms, the economic downturn, and cuts to other advice services such as the CAB.
“It’s getting worse, with rises in homelessness, redundancies and people needing access to food banks.
“I’m dealing with between 150-200 people a week, people are coming in Saturdays and Sun- days and we’re even giving out bread.”