Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blind man who had to stop work due to BECOMING BLIND is told he’s 'fit to return to work' in LETTER from Jobcentre

  • Richard Alcock, 62, was registered as being blind at the age of 18 months old
  • He still worked for 28 years in local government before his eyesight completely stopped him
  • Mr Alcock, from Bury in the UK, had to take early retirement and uses braille to read
  • Now he's passed a test to see if he's fit for work - and was told so in an official letter
  • Mr Alcock, whose carer had to read the letter out to him, said: 'It's a rotten trick'

A blind man who had to leave his job when he could no longer see his computer has been told he is fit for work again - in a letter written in small print.

Richard Alcock, 62, from Bury, Greater Manchester, took early retirement from his job as a local government clerk in a social services department because increased use of computers in his office meant he could no longer do his work.

After 28 years' service in local government Mr Alcock, who has been registered blind after being diagnosed with congenital glaucoma before he was two, had to leave work and rely on benefits.


Mr Alcock Stated: "It’s a rotten trick. What was just as upsetting was I had to wait for a support worker to come and read the letter out to me - it seemed like the final insult"

'Admittedly two days after I got it read to me I had the braille version, but it’s not the point.

The letter to Mr Alcock, whose wife Rachel, 64, is also blind, said: 'I understand that this decision may come as a shock to you, however I should explain that entitlement to employment and support

allowance is not based on someone’s health or disability itself.

'It is based on what a person is capable of doing rather than assuming their health condition or disability automatically prevents them from being able to work.'

Mr Alcock, who has not worked since he took early retirement from Birmingham City Council 12 years ago, said: 'I’ve been unemployed for this long so it’s going to be very difficult to go back to work now. Nobody wants to employ disabled people, and certainly not visually impaired people at that.'

'I understand the government wanting to get the bone idle back to work, but I worked hard in local government for the best part of 30 years despite my disability, and I didn’t even choose to leave my job in the first place.

'Technology moved on so quickly and I felt the workplace didn’t cater for the likes of me, so there was nothing I could do but take early retirement.

'I don’t know what I’ll do now. I have support workers who come twice a week and help me with paperwork and read things out that aren’t in braille and help with the cleaning and shopping - and I won’t be able to afford that without this money.'

Mr Alcock, with his wife Rachel, 64, at home in Bury, says: 'What if they tell me to become a bricklayer?'

The Work Capability Assessment lists a series of tasks which the recipient must say whether or not they can do them.

A statement from a healthcare professional said: 'The healthcare professional discussed these descriptors with Mr Alcock at the assessment and it was confirmed that he does not have any problems with these activities and therefore these descriptors are not appropriate.'

It went on: 'You can move unaided more than 200 metres on solid ground, including using a wheelchair. You can stay in one place standing for one hour without having to move away. You can raise at least one arm above head height.

'What happens if I walk down to the Jobcentre and they give me a job as a bricklayer?'

- Richard Alcock, 62, who was registered blind 60 years ago and now has been told to go back to work

'You can pick up and move objects such as an empty cardboard box or carton of liquid. You can use a computer keyboard or mouse and a pen or a pencil with at least one hand.'

Mr Alcock said: 'You must score 15 points to be deemed unsuitable for work and I scored nine. It’s ridiculous. What am I going to do at my age?

'What happens if I walk down to the Jobcentre and they give me a job as a bricklayer?

'I’m going to appeal but if that’s unsuccessful, which it may very well be, my lifestyle is going to be drastically changed. It’s scary.'

Mrs Alcock, a former bank telephonist, said: 'I think it’s a disgrace. He’s a 62-year-old blind man, for god’s sake. How can he just go back to work now?

'There’s young people out there who can’t get work, never mind people his age and with his condition.

A DWP spokesman said: 'It is important that we don’t simply write people off. There is strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition.

'But we also want to ensure that those who need it get the right support, which is why a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.

'Anyone can appeal against a decision. Before the appeal is heard we review all decisions, taking into account further information provided.'