EDWARD O’NEILL received the news that he would be taken off Incapacity Benefit on March 12.
“I WAS in a state of shock for three days after I got the letter from the Department of Work and Pensions,” the 61-year-old told the Irish Post.
“I felt victimised, like I was being starved out of my own home. It meant I had to live on £50 a week for all of my utilities and all of my food.”
The verdict was reached because, despite his deep vein thrombosis, depression and alcohol problems, following a face-to-face assessment the Cork man was judged ‘fit to work’.
“My DVT is life-threatening,” he said. “I am not meant to be sitting around all of the time. And I had all of my medical records with me, but they ignored all of my medical advice.”
After he was taken off Incapacity Benefit, the former painter and decorator, was supposed to be transferred onto Jobseeker’s Allowance. But he did not get that until Richard Smyth from Southwark Irish Pensioners’ Project (SIPP) helped him to contact the DWP, which has apologised to Mr O’Neill and promised to investigate his case.
Without the help of SIPP, he believes he would have given up after being signposted between his local jobcentre and the DWP for weeks. “I was sick of running up and down, feeling like a bouncing ball,” Mr O’Neill said.
“The last month has been so stressful, especially this week. Basically I had to be taken off everything when all of my bills were coming through, but I have no payment. Without a loan from the Irish Pensioners group I would have starved eventually.”
Last Tuesday, Mr O’Neill received his first £71 Jobseeker’s Allowance payment. He is unlikely to appeal the decision to remove his disability benefit and added: “Compared to what I have had to put up with for the last month, anything will do. I am happy and content because at least I have something to look forward to.
“Now that I am in the system I hope there will not be any more of this going back and forth.”