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How Many More Liam Barkers Will There Be?

September 22, 2012

Liam Barker, 18, was born paralysed and has been on life support since birth. He has a rare muscle wasting disease, myotubular myopathy, which meant that he was not expected to live longer than three months. Today, Liam can only communicate by blinking. He uses a ventilator to breathe.

The Barker family recently received a letter, seen by Same Difference, saying that Liam might have to prove he is unable to work in order to receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA), by attending a Work Focus Interview and/or a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). This has understandably left father Phil Barker, 52, ‘disgusted.’

Mr Barker believes that Job Centre Plus should know his son’s situation, as they have his National Insurance number which can be used to reveal he claims disability benefits. He has explained that his son would be unable to attend an interview, as the only place he visits is the hospital.

The family are waiting to be instructed on what their next step should be.

Mr Barker said: ‘If another disabled person had these issues and didn’t have a full time carer, they might lose their benefits or not know what to do. It’s caused a lot of upset.

‘I don’t think they really understand the situation and if they’d just looked into his National Insurance number or looked into his records properly they would realise he can’t work.’

A spokesperson for the Department For Work and Pensions said: ‘Often as a child gets older their needs change over time.

‘The Work Capability Assessment looks at what a person can do, not only what they cannot.

‘If someone is not capable of any work, then they will of course get long term incapacity support through the benefits system.’

Disabled people have feared incidents like this ever since plans to assess benefit claimants regularly were revealed to the public. There are many severely disabled people in similar situations to Liam Barker,  who will never be physically able to work. Campaigners have argued for quite some time that assessing such people regularly would be a greater waste of Government time and public money than simply providing them with the benefits to which they are certainly and genuinely entitled.

This is without taking into consideration the unnecessary emotional stress that assessments would cause to the disabled person and their carers.

It is now to be hoped that David Cameron and all relevant Government Ministers are made aware of this case as soon as possible. It is to be hoped that a Government Minister will intervene in this case, and that Liam Barker will be provided with appropriate benefits as soon as possible, without having to carry out any assessment.

Otherwise, disabled people fear that very soon, many more Liam Barkers will receive similar letters from the Department For Work and Pensions.

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2012 4:01 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I really can’t believe that this is the state we are in as a society. I’m sickened by the ignorance, stupidity and downright nastiness of the DWP, who must know that what they are doing is morally bankrupt.

  2. Winnie Davies permalink
    September 22, 2012 7:05 pm

    What next as if this family did not have enough to cope with. The DWP on orders from the condems are placing vulnerable people’s lives at risk. Why don’t they do there homework and stop picking easy targets.

  3. Munawar Mannan permalink
    September 22, 2012 7:18 pm

    I am in full support of Liam Barkers

  4. September 22, 2012 8:04 pm

    I have worked for people with disabilities, severe, profound, multiple disabilities. OK so the admin of the system can go wrong and that is in some way understandable. However, there should also be a duty of care within the civil service and this case highlights very sloppy management. An apology will be forthcoming because they know they can slip off the hook by that action. Not good enough, not good enough by far.

    What should happen? There should be a data base of people who are in positions like Liam and that should IMMEDIATELY flag up on the system to exclude them from the standard mails which are just shunted out at the press of a button. people like Liam, and his family, have enough to contend with without dealing with insulting situations like this. In fact, whilst we are here, we should also be looking at increasing the financial support to such families and recognise that they are standard bearers for the quality of our civilisation.

    • Winnie Davies permalink
      September 22, 2012 8:40 pm

      I agree with you, and if a situation like this can’t be flagged up on a data base. How on earth are the DWP going to manage universal credits when thousands of people will have to use computers to fill in the tick boxes, some will never have used computers before. One mistake and no money,

      • gwenhwyfaer permalink
        September 26, 2012 6:48 am

        Even those of us who have been using computers our whole lives have reason to be worried. Last time I filled out a government form (my ESA50) I kept an electronic copy. The time before that, I took a photocopy. How exactly does one save the contents of a webform in a form suitable for production at an appeal?

  5. orla mccarthy permalink
    September 22, 2012 9:43 pm

    Typical of bureaucracy today. Unreal! People forget behind every form is a person, a life.

  6. Skyjon permalink
    September 22, 2012 11:42 pm

    Whatever it takes to keep the rich rich… Sorry you’re going through this farce.

  7. Tom (iow) permalink
    September 23, 2012 9:02 pm

    So the WCA supposedly “looks at what a person can do, not only what they cannot” – sounds great, except that in this context it is a completely vacuous phrase.

    The WCA is not about finding anybody a suitable job. It’s solely about whether the person’s money and support will be cut off, potentially ending their life.

    Looking at what someone can do is admirable if you are trying to help them into work, *after* their need for support has been established, but in *this* context the phrase should really be seen as much more grossly offensive and evil than it currently is.

  8. September 24, 2012 6:35 pm

    My daughter has Stage Three ovarian cancer she has just finished three months of Chemotherapy and is now being prepared for a second operation. On Thursday she has been told to attend a job coach appointment.

  9. Winnie Davies permalink
    September 24, 2012 7:06 pm

    So once again they did not do their homework, and some vulnerable person has to go through all this stress and strain.

  10. Greg permalink
    September 25, 2012 2:22 pm

    Having read the reports of ATOS finding people fit to work who then died months later I was ready to be disgusted by this story. What I find instead is what appears to be at worst clerical error. Those in charge of this system should clearly have to up to date records which show that this young man is unable to work and that needs addressing but this Seems a bit of an over reaction (imho)

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