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One ‘not really disabled’ man has won against the system. I’m not celebrating – Aditya Chakrabortty

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 2:25
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Last Friday, John beat a system designed to beat him. He took on a secretary of state, a giant business and an infamous bureaucracy – and won. His story comes with a happy-ish ending; yet the more I turn it over, the angrier I get.

First, there is the humiliation and desperation dealt to a decent man who did nothing wrong. Then there are the tens of thousands who are not as lucky as John. Perhaps they include your family, your friends or your neighbours. Whoever they are, they are being driven further into sickness and poverty by our government. Their crime? Being disabled.

Just like John. His story begins and ends with two brown envelopes. The first came last October and contained the news that he’d been judged fit for work. This was despite his major injuries sustained from an attack 30 years ago; despite even a short walk leaving him reeling with pain; despite how even being dosed up with tramadol won’t get him more than three hours’ sleep a night. John had submitted all this evidence in good faith to the “healthcare professionals” and “decision-makers” employed by US giant Maximus and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). But they decided that he was not, to use the latest term from our governors in No 10, “really disabled”.

It was at that point I wrote about John on these pages. He’d been robbed of one of his key benefits – employment and support allowance – and was now being forced through the cruel and stupid bureaucracy of demonstrating he was looking for work that he could not possibly do. Friends told me he’d “collapsed”, and when we spoke he kept breaking down crying. We picked John as a pseudonym, so worried was he of reprisals. His was just one of the real-life stories that proved the grey horrors depicted in Ken Loach’s and Paul Laverty’s I, Daniel Blake – which this month won a Bafta – were not made up.

Things got even worse afterwards. His GP wrote saying he was in no state to look for work, to which the jobcentre responded by taking away his jobseeker’s allowance. For most of the run-up to Christmas, he was living off his disability living allowance: just under £50 a week to cover heating, groceries and everything else. While friends lent him cash, he also racked up a big overdraft with his bank. He felt as if he was drowning. “I was going under.”


Ken Loach Says…

One of the real-life stories that proved the grey horrors depicted in I, Daniel Blake were not made up.

My piece for the Guardian 

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