Benefits plan is zero rated

SP88141 Protest at Chesterfield job centre.
SP88141 Protest at Chesterfield job centre.

DISABILITY benefit claimants scored the Government nil for cutbacks since a new allowance was brought in.

The demonstration outside Chesterfield’s Jobcentre on Tuesday was part of a national day of protest against benefit cuts.

Around 30 people joined the rally – organised by Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre (DUWC) – to award the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) nil since the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced a range of incapacity benefits.

Many received zero points in assessments by Atos Healthcare, the company which carries out DWP disability analysis, so were unable to claim ESA and left with £65 a week.

Sue Hutchings was told she wasn’t entitled after been made redundant in June 2009 and diagnosed with breast cancer the following month – but overturned the ruling at a tribunal and is now in remission.

“I have come here today because I don’t want anybody else to go through what I have”, said Sue, of Hilcote, near Alfreton.

“It’s been very stressful and I have been harassed by Atos”.

ME sufferer Rachel Deakin (25), of Chesterfield, is one of 700 people waiting to be represented by DUWC at tribunals challenging decisions on their benefits.

She said: “The amount of people getting turned down then having appeals found in their favour is incredible.

“If the same thing was happening in the justice system you’d think something was very wrong.”

Speaking after the protest, also backed by the Trades Union Congress, DUWC co-ordinator Colin Hampton said: “The spirit of those who came down was very positive.

“Some of the cases we’ve got here are really heartbreaking and I think it’s our duty to make sure we give a voice to people.”

Atos Healthcare said the organisation “was selected to provide independent, impartial medical advice to the DWP so its decision-makers can make informed decisions about applications for benefit.”

It added:“Atos Healthcare is committed to providing high quality services.”