Charities: '˜Blackpool is being hit by disabled benefits crisis'
Charities helping disabled people on the Fylde Coast get the right level of benefits say they are being over-run with desperate pleas for help.
And Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said his constituency office is inundated with people who had lost benefits through a change in the system.
The problems, they say, have piled up after the introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which the government brought in to replace Disability Living Allowance for 16 to 64-year-olds
And earlier this year, the Conservatives tightened the rules for qualifying for PIP which opponents say prevents people with psychological conditions from getting the benefits they need.
Opponents also say that the medical assessments for PIP have been tightened up and the appeals system made extremely difficult for disabled people to negotiate.
Both Disability First and Blackpool Citizens’ Advice Bureau say the PIP system is too difficult for vulnerable people to use and they are having to help more and more people to get the money they are entitled to.
One couple suffering benefits cuts said the system was geared to be unfair and aimed at forcing people off benefit to save money.
Ron Lingham, 69, of St Chad’s Road, said his wife Susan, 63 had been on the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance due to her suffering a raft of debilitating illnesses but following an assessment earlier this year, their money had been slashed.
He said: “I have been a lifelong Conservative Party campaigner but I am so angry about how PIP is being run, I will never vote for them again.
“The assessment was a joke. They took no notice of her medical history or her long term mental health issues.
“She has osteoarthritis in both knees and serious psychological problems due to abuse as a child. When we had MP Gordon Marsden round to ask for his help, he actually gasped when he saw the state of her knees.
“I understand there are people who play the system and the authorities should rightly come down on them like a ton of bricks because they give long term sick people a bad name, but the way the system is run makes it so difficult for people to fill in all the forms, the doctors assessment was perfunctory, it takes weeks to hear the outcome and even longer to appeal. All that time people are going without all the money they need to live.
“It just seems geared to get people off benefits. I can’t believe in a civilised society it has come to this.”
Another Blackpool resident who has fallen foul of the scheme is Keith Bernthal, 63, of Crystal Road who lost a leg after an accident at work in 1995 and who is dyslexic.
He said: “It is a disgraceful way to treat people. I had my medical assessment and they stopped my benefits on July 7. It wasn’t even a doctor assessing me, just a woman who said she was a nurse asking questions off a computer.
“I cannot read or write properly and have constant pain in my remaining leg but they have taken away my severe disability benefit and I have lost my housing benefit so might end up homeless.”
The former Kings Own Scottish Borderers serviceman said he was relying on food handouts from local churches and was waiting for an interview for Job Seekers Allowance.
He added: “I am 63 and can’t read or write I can’t see anyone employing me. I have appealed but it takes so long.”