Graham Shawcross, 63, had Addison’s disease which left him exhausted – Yvonne said the stress of being told he was fit to work led to his heart attack
A widow was horrified when a letter arrived for her late husband saying he had won his appeal against his sickness benefits being axed.
Graham Shawcross, 63, had potentially fatal Addison’s disease, but was ruled fit to work last November and had his £400-a-month incapacity benefit halted.
He died of a heart attack in February this year.
Yvonne, his wife of 23 years, claims the stress of losing his benefits, and of launching an appeal against the decision, caused his death. She told Department of Work and Pensions bosses Graham had died, but they still invited him to attend an appeal hearing – and wrote again a few days later to say he was eligible for Employment and Support Allowance for at least the next 24 months.
Yvonne of Radcliffe, Manchester, said: “Graham would surely be alive today if it was not for the stress. The month before he died, you could tell he was going downhill. He was completely not himself, his stress levels were going through the roof and he was upping his steroids to higher levels every day. Graham was talking about his appeal constantly and writing the details out dozens of times a day.
“He was a proud man and what upset him most was that he thought they were calling him a liar. It was just heartbreaking.”
In November, Graham received a letter from the DWP informing him he was no longer entitled to incapacity benefit after an assessment found he was fit for work. But Graham, who did not receive a single point when his capability to work was assessed, suffered from Addison’s disease – a rare adrenal gland disorder which affects hormone production.
The condition, treated with steroid medication, causes exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and cramps and can lead to adrenal crisis, which can be fatal. Mr Shawcross had suffered from Addison’s disease since the age of 21 but had worked for forty years before ill-health got the better of him.
After appealing the decision at the end of January, he was summoned to a hearing in Bury in June 19 – despite Yvonne informing the DWP of his death. On June 24, a second letter arrived stating his appeal had been granted and he was eligible for Employment and Support Allowance for at least the next 24 months.
Mr Shawcross, father to 30-year-old Gary and Rebecca, aged 21, volunteered as the treasurer of the Bolton Road estate tenants and residents association. His wife, who runs a school kitchen, said when he attended his medical assessment with Atos Healthcare he brought with him a large folder about his condition, which was not consulted.
She added: “If Graham could have worked he would have loved to work – he did anything for anybody. As it turns out, he did not even need to go through all the stress, because he won his appeal. But it was all for nothing.”
Bury South MP Ivan Lewis said: “Graham Shawcross was a remarkable man, who for nearly 40 years, worked hard despite having a chronic illness. “His treatment at the hands of this callous Tory-led government was scandalous.
“It exposes the fact that many of the changes they are making hit vulnerable people who deserve better in a civilised society.”