How Many More Liam Barkers Will There Be?
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.