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Gran with COPD, one kidney, and who beat cancer declared ‘fit for work’ weeks after having second stroke

59 year old Pauline Pike from Scotland was astounded to discover that she had been declared fit for work – just weeks after having her second stroke.

Ms Pike has suffered from various health problems over the last 30 years, including cancer, which led to having a kidney removed, diverticulitis, and chronic breathing problems. 

Regardless of these ongoing health problems and her recent stroke, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have informed her that her benefits will soon stop and she will have to ‘get a job’.

“I felt harassed”

Just a few weeks after suffering her second stroke, she was forced to attend a medical assessment. Pauline’s explanation of the experience suggests that the DWP’s approach to vulnerable people is aggressive and intimidating:

“When I was forced to go for the medical, that was the first time I had been out the house in ages. I went along and I felt as if the woman was putting words into my mouth. She was asking if I could walk around the shops if I was with my husband and whether I could use my arms. I felt harassed and as if she had made her mind up before I was even finished.”

Following the assessment, Pauline received a phone call and was informed that she had been declared fit for work. She was also informed that her benefits would stop the following month, so she would “need to get a job”.

Suffering with various breathing problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, Pauline relies on a nebuliser to help her breathe. She asks:

“Who is going to take me on? I can’t breathe and can barely walk about the place. It’s not right to 
put me through all this especially when I am trying to recover from my second stroke six weeks ago.”

Common problems following a stroke, as listed by The Stroke Association, include problems with movement and balance, as well excessive tiredness. There are also numerous ‘hidden’ problems including: issues with memory and thinking; with communication; and even changes to emotions and behaviour.

Pauline added:

“I am still suffering. I am in pain 24 hours a day. They don’t care. I am just a number to them. I’ve been on morphine for at least five years and yet I am expected to just go out and get a job.”

To cut off support and force someone suffering with these conditions to go and find work is inhumane.

Permanent damage

There have been endless complaints about the way the Department for Work and Pensions conducts these robotic assessments that determine if people are fit for work, yet nothing appears to change.

In March, research showed that the DWP’s fit to work tests can cause permanent damage to mental health. Last year, data emerged that revealed that 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after being declared able to work.

The mistreatment continues

On August 17th, Pauline’s income support and severe disability allowance will end. In what must be an extremely worrying time for Pauline, it is clear that despite the DWP’s assessment, she will not be able to return to work. She explains that it is “impossible” as she can “barely walk”, relying on her husband and daughter to take care of her.

Something is clearly seriously wrong with this cruel and degrading system. The evidence shows that these inhumane ways of treating people need to be scrapped immediately, but until then, people like Pauline continue to be the victims of this cruel injustice.

Get involved

  • Be prepared. If you are facing a Work Capability Assessment then ensure you know what you are facing. Rethink, a mental health charity, provide all of the information you need to know.
  • Sign this petition that demands that the DWP ‘stop using the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism until it has been revised and made fit for purpose.’. It won’t fix the problems with this disturbing system, but it will show that the public are aware of its many flaws. It’s a step in the right direction.
  • Visit your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice on benefits

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