Sunday 24 October 2010

Keith and Margaret's Story

My Husband Keith, is 64 years old, and had worked since he was 15 years old. He has suffered with mental health problems for over 20 years, but had managed to work despite this until he suffered a very bad Break Down 5 years ago. At that time he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and I cared for him through a very difficult 6 months, while also caring for my Mum who had Cancer and who died 5 years ago next week. We did not claim Benefits during this period as he was salaried and his salary continued throughout that period. His company agreed that he could return to work part time at first, and gradually increasing to full time. Again, we did not claim benefits, and subsidised his loss of earnings with our savings.
My Husband's job was very stressful, and as a result his condition deteriorated, and he was Sectioned Under the Mental Health Act on 1st September 2008. He was in hospital for 3 months, and I was working full time while trying to care for him at home after his release from hospital. Keith didn't start claiming ESA until his salary stopped in March 2009, and he was also advised by his CPN to apply for DLA. Due to Keith's inability to cope, I had to finish work in October last year to be his full time carer. I have never claimed Carers Allowance and we have managed on £91.40 ESA, £40 Pension Credit per week, and £267 DLA every 4 weeks. We have only been able to manage because I was left a small inheritance from my Uncle.

In August, Keith was called for a WCA by Atos Healthcare. He was declared "Fit for Work", and this had a terrible affect on his mental health. He scored 0 points, which his Psychiatrist couldn't believe. All the good work that had been achieved by his Consultant Psychiatrist, his CPN and myself was in danger of being destroyed due to the stress of having to appeal this decision. Keith was in a right state, begging me not to let them make him go back to work, or appeal. He wanted us to just live on my inheritance until his retirement in March next year. I started the appeals process, but on the advice of Keith's Psychiatrist, we decided not to proceed. Instead, I managed to have his Pension Credit increased, which is now what we are living on, and of course the DLA.

My Husband is not a Benefits Scrounger, he is ill, and has worked since the age of 15. Why then should he be treated like a liar and a cheat by Atos Healthcare and the DWP. Far from being scroungers, we haven't claimed benefits we could have in the past. I hope that in some way our story and experiences of this benefits fiasco will help others in the future.

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