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Forklift driver who lost leg told: You're fit to work
A former forklift driver who had a leg amputated following a workplace accident has been ruled fit to work by benefits bosses.
Single dad-of-two Darren Gilligan, 35, had to take his case to appeal last year after he was initially told he was not entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because he did not score enough points on a medical assessment form.
That decision was reversed after the Telegraph & Argus highlighted his plight but he has been reviewed again following the amputation of one of his legs and benefits bosses have withdrawn his ESA for a second time.
Mr Gilligan said: “It’s ludicrous. When they did a U-turn last time I still had both my legs but now I’ve actually had the amputation. I’m worse off than before and there are other health complications but they are saying I’m fit to work – I’m clearly not.”
Mr Gilligan, of Pasture Road, Baildon, was getting used to his false leg when he fell and tore ligaments in his other knee for which he underwent an operation yesterday.
He said: “I’m wheelchair-bound because I can’t bear any weight and I get chronic backache. I want to work when I’m well enough and have learned to walk on my new leg but that’s not possible now. I’m not a scrounger.”
Mr Gilligan, who suffered complications after breaking his ankle at work in 2003, had previously been receiving Incapacity Benefit.
Mr Gilligan said he will appeal with the help of letters from his GP, consultants and phyios who, he said, all agree he can- not go back to work yet.
He said: “I was told I only had 12 points towards getting my Employment and Support Allowance – six for having one leg, another six for being depressed and I need another three apparently.
“Everyone I speak to is flabbergasted. If you can breathe and blink they want you back to work. It means I lose help towards my housing benefit and council tax when it’s not my fault. I’m a single dad with a family to bring up, times are hard enough but without my ESA they are even harder.
“I will appeal and with all the specialists behind me I should get the extra points I need for them to have another re-think and re-award me the ESA but I can’t even start to appeal until I get all the official paperwork from the benefits people which seems to be taking ages.”
Paul Anderson, of Bradford & District Disabled People’s Forum, said its calculations showed 42 per cent of people in Bradford were winning their appeals against ESA judgements which showed how “ridiculous” the entitlement process was.
He said: “It’s causing a lot of stress and unnecessary worry because of the way the assessment and scoring process is so unfair and so unrealistic. Disabled people want to be given the opportunity to work but some people need more support and also jobs they can do are not always available.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We shouldn’t automatically write off a person’s ability to work, solely on the basis of a health condition or disability.
“That’s why the Work Capability Assessment doesn't focus on a particular diagnosis, but on the actual abilities of an individual, and whether that person – with the right support – could undertake suitable work.
“People who are too sick or disabled will continue to receive our unconditional support, but those who are able to work will get specialist help through the Work Programme.
“Everyone has the right to appeal a benefit decision they do not agree with. Once we receive an appeal, ESA will be paid pending the outcome, so claimants are not left without an income.”