Saddleworth man’s social security sanction ‘felt like death sentence’

A DISABLED man from Saddleworth has described the effect of having his social security payments stopped by the DWP for five months as being ‘like a death sentence’.

John Ruane, from Lees, has been diagnosed as having a benign brain tumour causing him to have several epileptic seizures each week and making it impossible for him to work.

debbie-abrahams-headshot
Debbie Abrahams MP

The DWP alleged John missed an appointment for a work capability assessment and stopped his social security payments.

In fact John was at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London recovering from medical tests to establish the cause, and potential treatment, of his seizures.

His medical team supplied the DWP with the evidence to show where he was, and that he cannot work due to his condition, but this was ignored.

Eventually the medics contacted John’s MP, Debbie Abrahams, on his behalf asking if she could intervene.

They were particularly concerned John was refusing to consider a potentially life-saving operation because he feared he would miss the next scheduled work capability assessment during the time it would take him to recover.

John said: “Like most people I want to work but I simply can’t with my condition and so I’m dependent on social security for the basics in life such as food, heat and rent.

“I couldn’t believe it when the job centre said they were going to sanction me because I missed my work capability assessment. 

“And they wouldn’t even take notice of the letters from my consultant saying I was too ill to work and needed an operation. That’s when my medical team went to Debbie for help.

“The whole situation left me anxious and depressed because I had no money and my bills were piling up. I even got letters from my landlord saying I faced eviction.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, raised John’s case in Parliament.

She said: “John’s case is another shocking example of how this government’s punitive sanctions regime is crushing vulnerable people as they pursue their slash and burn austerity policies.

“MPs from all parties know, from our constituency casework, just what a damaging and devastating effect sanctions can have on our most vulnerable citizens. 

“That’s why I have been campaigning to stop the Government’s punitive sanctions regime and, as Labour’s Work & Pensions Secretary, have pledged that a future Labour government will do just that. 

“The shocking evidence is there for the Government to see after I instigated the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s inquiry on sanctions in 2015. 

“The Select Committee made over 20 recommendations including stopping financial sanctions for people who were sick or disabled on ESA and for other vulnerable claimants.

“But unfortunately the Government refused to accept the Select Committee’s recommendations on stopping sanctions and on setting up an independent body to investigate deaths associated with a sanction or to track what happens when claimants are sanctioned and stop signing on.”

After five months of being sanctioned John was able to attend a work capability assessment in early November and was found ‘not fit for work’ as expected. He had his social security payments restored including a back payment.

John said: “Finally I was able to pay off my debts, including paying back my carer who had been helping me with food, for which I will always be so grateful.

“People who know me were kind and helpful, and I was able to get help from Oldham Foodbank too, but the way I was treated by the DWP was terrible and I can understand why people are driven to despair after being sanctioned for no good reason.

“The DWP just wouldn’t listen to me, or the expert medical team supporting me, and they left me with no money for the basics in life. It felt like a death sentence.

“They don’t treat you like a person. They just know you as a national insurance number not a person.”

John is currently waiting for his test results ahead of a potential operation to treat the tumour.

6 Replies to “Saddleworth man’s social security sanction ‘felt like death sentence’”

  1. The DWP is a rogue department and its ministers are human rights violators, according to the United Nations. I am recommending that a human rights lawsuit be filed against the DWP and its ministers, in conjunction with the UN’s recent “grave and systematic” violations finding.

    See: UN: ‘Grave’ disability rights violations under UK reforms – BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37899305

    Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis impacting Britain’s sick and disabled.

    Montreal, Canada

  2. The DWP is not a rogue department. It is doing exactly what the Government is telling it to do. This government believes that all anyone needs to get back to work is incentive, with only a few housebound or bedridden people ‘deserving’ of support. And even then, they’ve built disincentive into the system with endless humiliating reassessments and the constant threat of losing all income.

  3. Please see Disabledviewuk and stop-pip.org who are just 2 organisations look for positive Change for sick and disabled people. The government in power know exactly what they are doing and it appears to be equivalent to ww2 Germany but legal genocide with a blind eye turned towards it

  4. Similar cases are emerging all over the Country see the story of Brighton based Paraplegic Bobby Carver confined to a 2nd floor flat and woefully inadequate allocation of just 20 hours per week when he needs 24hrs daily care. His treatment has been appalling and also all medical expert reports and recommendations point blank ignored by the Council and housing trust. https://brightonandhovehousingcrisis.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/a-question-of-expertise/
    In Brighton the community stepped up and donated to a fund to at least provide Bobby with a more suitable wheelchair (£3,800 raised) and we’ll be taking to the streets in this new year to demand he is re-housed in suitable wheelchair accessible accommodation and given 24hr care. The community cares even if the government departments in charge of social care for the sick, elderly and disabled, don’t appear to. It’s a shocking world we are living in.

  5. Has anybody been asked at their PIP assessment what they do with their PIP money this seems to be the thing now what’s next vouchers

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