A BLIND man who was forced to take early retirement 12 years ago was left in shock when he was told he is now fit to return to work. Richard Alcock, of Craven Street, Bury, attended an assessment which ruled he was no longer entitled to employment support allowance.
The 62-year-old has been registered blind from being 18-months-old, and is originally from the West Midlands, moving to Bury two and a half years ago. Mr Alcock lives with his wife Rachel, aged 64, who is also blind.
He said: “I had to wait for a support worker to come and read the letter out to me. I can read braille so, as far as they are concerned, I can read.”
After working in local government for 30 years, Mr Alcock was forced to take early retirement when he could not adapt to the increased use of computers in the workplace, and was not provided with the appropriate equipment to enable him to continue his work. Mr Alcock has received incapacity benefit for the past 10 years, but faces the prospect of this being removed unless an appeal is successful.
He said: “The most important thing is we have support workers who come to the house twice a week, we have to pay for them, and we might have to stop if we lose this money. They deal with our correspondence, go shopping with us and help with cleaning, and that would be a drastic change if we lose them.”
Mr Alcock attended an assessment in Bolton on September 3, but did not score enough points to qualify for Employment Support Allowance, and says he intends to appeal. He added: “The stupid thing I was told I could apply for Jobseekers Allowance, but I would have to get to the Job Centre in Bury to see what jobs are available which would be very difficult.”
ATOS Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and those who are claiming benefits as a result of a disability or injury may have to attend an assessment.
A DWP spokesperson said: “It is important that we don’t simply write people off. There is strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition. But we also want to ensure those who need it get the right support, which is why a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.
“Anyone can appeal against a decision. Before the appeal is heard we review all decisions, taking into account further information provided.”
By Andrew Bardsley in the ‘Bury Times’ 26th September 2013: http://www.burytimes.co.uk/news/10701849.Retired_blind_man_is__fit_for_work_/