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Blind woman declared fit for work
Picture credit: Coventry Telegraph/The Independent

A 62 year old blind woman with epilepsy, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis has been declared fit for work.

Hazel Macrae from Coventry has been blind since birth. She is unable to leave the house alone and cannot even make a cup of tea. Yet the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have decided that she is able to work based on the fact she can “move her hands”.

Shockingly, the DWP don’t even send letters to Hazel in braille, so she cannot read them without the help of her partner.

“Work focused interviews”

Hazel, who has artificial eyes, cannot leave the house without the support of her partner or son as she is afraid of falling. Her osteoarthritis means she cannot use a pen, she cannot use a telephone and she is unable to move safely in a work place. She cannot even make a cup of tea.

She was summoned for a ‘back to work assessment’, which resulted in her being judged as having “limited capability for work”. Her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was then moved from the Support Group to the Work Related Activity Group. Her ESA was also reduced by £15 every fortnight.

She will now have to meet regularly with a work coach, who will conduct ‘work focused interviews’ and may direct her to programmes to enable her to ‘get back into work’.

“There are no jobs that I can do”

Following her assessment, the DWP decided that Hazel can use her hands because she is able to move them.

She said:

They think they can support me back into work but I can’t do it.

There are no jobs that I can do. They have said that I can use my hands and I’m expected to apply for all jobs going.

They asked me if I can move my hands and I said yes.

I can’t even make a cup of tea myself because of the boiling water.

If I used a white stick I would not have the confidence to go out of the house by myself.”

Tribunal

Hazel has decided to appeal, and will go to a tribunal if necessary.

This isn’t the first time she has had to go through this process; two years ago the DWP ruled she must go back to work. Hazel lost the appeal and so had to take them to a tribunal – which she won.

She told the Coventry Telegraph:

My health hasn’t got any better since two years ago so I don’t know why this has happened.

I think I’m going to have to go to a tribunal again and I’m so stressed out by it.

It is just so horrible. They don’t even send you the letters in braille, my partner has to read them.

Ability to work

Being moved from the support group to the work related activity group means that the DWP have decided that Hazel’s multiple disabilities and health conditions may limit her ability to work, but that there are things that she can do to improve this. 

People in this group are supposedly not expected to look for work but must go to work-focused interviews and then do work-related activities.

The only people who are exempt from the interviews are single parents with a child under the age of one and people who have reached pension age.

Dehumanising

The degrading and dehumanising actions of this government towards vulnerable citizens seems to have no end.

To not even bother sending a woman who has been blind since birth letters in braille just says it all. They have no respect for the people they are supposed to represent and no understanding of illness and disability. 

This should not be happening. How can a political party get away with such disgusting abuse of disabled people?

Hazel’s case is sadly one of many, and the government must not be allowed to get away with abusing the vulnerable any longer.

Update:

Thankfully the DWP have now seen sense and, after a significant public outcry, finally decided to do a complete u-turn on their initial decision.

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