A blind woman said she will fight to have her benefits reinstated after being told to get a job.
Natasha Pogson was called up to a controversial ‘fit-to-work’ assessment – part of the government’s overhaul of the welfare system.
The 28-year-old was born blind as a result of being premature – arriving at 26 weeks and weighing just 1lb 11oz.
But an assessor ruled she was not eligible for help and told her she must actively look for work through Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
Natasha’s previous benefits amounted to £162 a week under the disability allowance scheme but this will fall to £72.40 under JSA.
Natasha is in the process of appealing against the decision and slammed the system for making her feel like a benefits cheat.
“They make you feel so small, almost suggesting I am making my disability up,” she said.
“The reason for me not qualifying is apparently because I can cross a road with a blind dog in a place I am familiar with, but that isn’t always the case.
“There has been times I have fallen over in the street and not been able to get my bearings until someone comes, even with my dog there.”
Natasha, of Malvern Road, Billingham, is among thousands of people who have had to take part in the assessments.
Those who claimed incapacity benefit, income support for illness or disability or severe disablement allowance, are transferred to a new payment called employment and support allowance (ESA).
The tests, carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), decide whether claimants are still eligible to receive support.
Participants must score 15 to be deemed unable to work. Natasha scored nine and was told she was “no longer assessed as having limited capability for work”.
“The assessors ask questions such as how many fingers are they holding up, or they would lift their arms and ask if I could do the same without telling me what they were doing. I felt stupid.”
Dad Karl, 47, is Natasha’s main carer. He said he was disgusted by the answers his daughter received.
“Natasha has enough problems without people questioning her ability and intention.
“I understand the Government is trying to get people off benefits, but you have to live in the life of a blind person to know what they go through.
“For Natasha to qualify for JSA she has to be able to travel for up to 90 minutes on her own, which is completely unrealistic.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said:
“The assessment is designed to look at what work someone can do with the right support – rather than just writing people off on sickness benefits as happened in the past.
“The decision on entitlement is made after considering all the evidence, including evidence from a claimant’s GP, and people have the right to submit extra evidence or appeal as part of the process.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 19 Sept 2014
A civil servant siphoned off nearly £2,000 from people’s benefits after struggling to meet the payments of his pay-day loan.
Anthony Osborne was paying £700 from his monthly salary to meet the “exorbitant” interest rates of his loan, Sunderland magistrates were told.
He turned to crime and took £1,932 in just five weeks after realising he could alter bank details on customers’ electronic records.
But he was caught after two claimants complained they had not received their benefits and an internal audit was carried out.
Osborne, 42, was arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in June.
At a sentencing hearing this week, Osborne blamed mounting debts and depression for the deception, described in court as being totally out of character for a man who had never been in trouble with the law.
Osborne, who gave his address in court as Wark Street, Chester-le-Street, carried out the fraud at Job Centre Plus in Sunderland, where he had worked for seven years.
Prosecutor John McGlone said over five weeks from December 6, the benefits processor helped himself to the cash, which was paid into two bank accounts he had access to.
Chris Wilson, defending, said Osborne was struggling to keep up with the demands from his loan.
“It was not frivolous spending,” he said, “but more a case of making ends meet.”
“Vulnerabilities in the system were identified by him and effectively it was to his benefit. The actions of Mr Osborne on this occasion were completely out of character.
“He has never come under the spotlight of the police or his employment.
“He is embarrassed and ashamed and wishes he could wind the clock back.
“Against the background of depression and the downward spiral he was in, he made an erroneous decision.”
Mr Wilson added that Osborne had moved out from the home he shared with his partner of five years, after they rowed over the court case and he was living at the tattoo removal business in Chester-le-Street which he had set up.
“His financial situation is now stable because of this. He has built up a customer base and it seems he will be successful, going forward,” he added.
Chairman Peter Devere ordered Osborne to serve a 12-month community order and to repay the stolen money back to the Department for Work and Pensions.
> Now, if the defendant had been from the other side of the counter – a claimant – we’d be getting headlines about Benefit Cheats and Taxpayer’s Money.
It’s still benefits fraud, and it’s still taxpayer’s money, but somehow it doesn’t seem to generate the same lurid headlines.
In fact its far worse, because he was in a position of responsibility and in receipt of a wage. And he stole from the worst off in society.
Which to my mind makes him the worst kind of benefits cheat.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 21 Aug 2014