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Stuart Chester And Family Met With Scotland Minister Alex Neil

September 30, 2015

A SEVERELY disabled victim of the Tory’s ruthless welfare reforms and his family have met Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil for the first time to discuss ways of working together to save other vulnerable people suffering under the new system.

The National exclusively revealed earlier this month how Stuart Chester, who has Down’s syndrome and autism, cannot speak, read, wash or clothe himself, has been ordered to prove he is unfit for work.

The 25-year-old lives with his mother Deborah McKenzie in Glasgow and gets round-the-clock care but he was sent a 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in that will investigate his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.

Deborah, 51, has filled in the form for him but she is still very worried he will have to be taken in for a work capability assessment. That is because, she says, the Tory Government doesn’t care that their system is killing people after their own figures revealed how nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work.

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed that during the period between December 2011 and February 2014 2, 380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were found fit for work.

For the first time, a coroner officially blamed the DWP for a death after the inquest into disabled Michael O’Sullivan, 60, who killed himself after wrongly being deemed fit for work and losing benefits.

Neil is calling on the people of Scotland to join him in his fight to have welfare powers devolved to stop vulnerable people being victimised and families put on the breadline because of sanctions.

Deborah said: “It was really great to meet Alex because he seems so passionate about it and we know he is fighting our corner. He is just as disgusted with what the Tories are doing to vulnerable people as everyone else but his hands are tied unless we have further devolution and the Scottish Government have control over the welfare system in Scotland or we go independent.

“All we can do is continue to fight against the injustice and shout about it from the rooftops until someone eventually listens but the Tories don’t care if people die as a result of their benefit cuts, they just want to save money.

“We have all got to stand together and say enough is enough, right now before more disabled people die because of it. I cannot understand how they are getting away with killing people. It is genocide, they are killing people and doing it the most ruthless way possible. It beggars belief.

“It is heartbreaking and it makes me so angry. Labour are just as bad because they have allowed this to happen.”

Her daughter Amanda, 29, set up a Facebook page in Stuart’s name and so far more than 1,000 people from all over the world have shown their support.

Amanda said: “I was impressed with Alex and he seems passionate about taking it forward and helping my mum and Stuart, and others in the same situation.

“The amount of support we have had since we spoke out in The National has been amazing and everyone keeps telling us not to give up the fight. We have had people from all over the world who just cannot believe this is happening in a civilised country.”

Alex said he was delighted to meet Stuart and his family for the first time since his shocking case was exposed.

He said: “I was angry the first time The National told me about what was happening to Stuart. It is absolutely abhorrent that someone like Stuart who is on lifetime DLA, that he and his family are put through this hell by the DWP and their agencies.

“Unfortunately, Stuart is not the only one who is going through this terrible experience.

“One of my constituents in particular was bedridden and called in for a work assessment, and trying to convince the DWP that the lady in question was unfit to get out of bed, never mind attend a work assessment – it was almost impossible to persuade them.”

He said people are living in fear of the DWP and called on the people of Scotland to fight for a devolved welfare system.

Neil added: “The only way for us in Scotland is to have the powers over all of this to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament because no matter who was in government in Scotland, no party would ever allow this to happen.

“That’s because we take a much more humane approach to the whole issue of benefits up here.

“The only way of getting the powers transferred is to use the powers of the ballot box at every opportunity to send a loud and clear message to London that we are not prepared to put up with it.

“Even for those folk who wouldn’t want to go for independence there is no reason why they couldn’t support the transfer of these powers to a Scottish

Parliament so we get a humane social security system instead of one that is making people ill or leading them to take their own lives.”

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