A 54 year old Salford father of four children died of a massive heart attack on16th January, just seven weeks after being told by a DWP medical tribunal that he was 'fit for work'.
The man, who the family doesn't want naming yet, had been claiming sickness benefit for over a decade due to COPD and a blocked artery but was awarded zero points by the controversial medical assessment test brought in by the Tory Government.
"He phoned me right away and said 'I don't know what I'm going to do now'" his sister recalls "I said 'This will make you even more ill'; he wouldn't ask anyone for help as he was too proud. But we put him onto the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre who did a report and he was dragged through a tribunal on 21st November, which he was dreading before he even got in there."
Despite having medical records from his GP and consultant, plus support from the Centre and Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, his appeal failed.
"He was very depressed, he came back and his breathing was bad" his sister explains "There was a relationship between the decision and what happened; he had a good case but they judged him before he even got in, that's what I believe.
"He was put through hell going to the tribunal trying to prove what was going on inside his body" she adds "But, like he said, 'You can't show these disabilities'. They were overruling his GP. Yet the people who do the assessments are not trained enough; it's almost as if they are impersonating doctors. For me, you're judged before you even go in there, so if you've got a disability and it's on the inside and not on the outside they think that you're alright and everything's fine.
"He didn't go mithering the NHS because they're on their knees and have no money, but the DWP were saying 'We want more evidence' putting even more pressure on the NHS. Was the GP, who had gone through university and training to get qualifications, not worth anything?" she asks "All his medical records were passed onto the tribunal but I think they just didn't like his face. They actually said 'Right, we've finished with you now' and walked out...He lost almost £40 a week but it was about the stress and anxiety, and we all know what happens when you get knocked off these benefits. He had children and a wife and didn't know where to turn to next."
Alec McFadden, manager of the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre which handled the case, was shocked by the tribunal decision, which read 'Your work capability assessment shows that although you may have illnesses, health conditions or disability you are now capable of doing some work'...
"You've almost got a replication in terms of age of I, Daniel Blake" he says "You've got a guy whose consultant and doctor said he wasn't fit for work; then you've got a life coach, or whatever they're called, in the medical tribunal and in the medical assessment saying he was fit for work, even though they accept he had health conditions.
"It's beyond belief when I read their own statement" he adds "They accepted the fact that he had health conditions, to such an extent that his house was adapted so he lived on one floor; but it appears that they've looked at the house, seen it has three floors, so thought this guy must be running up and down stairs all day.
"He's been on the sick receiving disability benefits for over ten years, yet the suggestion in the letter is that there's been some remarkable miraculous recovery, an on-the-road-to-Damascus like bolt of light. The family were shocked because there clearly hadn't been any improvement in his health whatsoever."
The letter from the tribunal also stated that he should start looking for a job...'We realise that this may not be the same type of work you've done; we can help you by identifying types of work you can do taking into consideration any illness, health condition or disability you may have'...
"He hadn't worked for a number of years but was a security guard and, for that, you have to be on your toes most of the time and you sometimes have to physically restrain people; I don't know how this man was meant to fit into this role" McFadden says "Maybe they were thinking of him being an astronaut or an airline pilot, or a tv host so he could just sit down.
"Whatever, the Centre feels that this is either incompetence or malicious, or both, but also carrying out Tory Government policy, initiated in part by Esther McVey" he insists "There is also a suggestion, after taking legal advice, that the DWP can be sued for negligence."
Now, Salford and Eccles MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey, has criticised both the DWP decision and the cruel benefit system imposed by the Government...
"I am both saddened and shocked to hear about the passing of one of my local constituents, who died last month at the age of only 54" she says "Last year my office referred the man, who suffered long term medical issues, for support from the Salford Unemployment and Community Resource Centre, after the Department for Work and Pensions found him fit for work. Being found fit for work meant he was no longer entitled to Employment Support Allowance and his financial situation was adversely affected.
"He is not a number, or a statistic, he is a real person and leaves behind a devastated family" she adds "He should not have been subjected to the stresses and strains of this Government's callous and unfair capability assessments and financial sanctions. I am horrified that they may have contributed to his untimely and shocking passing."
Meanwhile, a mother, four children, sisters and family have been left distraught...
"I shouldn't be seeing my younger brother in a coffin in the chapel" his heartbroken sister says "They twist everything you say; everything..."
Today, Esther McVey, the former Employment Minister who introduced benefit sanctions guidelines, and was recently handed the job of Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, is set to answer questions in Parliament about the cruelty of the benefits regime.
See also today's Salford Star article – Salford songwriter, Dominic Williams, creates national track for the Sack Esther McVey campaign – click here