Sep 21 2012 by Craig Robertson, Kilmarnock Standard
A SEVERELY disabled woman who can’t do anything for herself is being forced to prove that she’s unable to work.
Heather McLellan of Galston has been told she must fill out new government forms that will assess her right to continue receiving benefits.
The 26-year-old is one of thousands across the area who are facing hardline checks under changes to benefits rules being introduced by Westminster.
Heather’s mother Karen – her full-time carer – was among 140 people who packed in to a public meeting on Friday to discuss the changes with Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP Cathy Jamieson and Labour’s shadow Minister for Disabled People, Anne McGuire.
Karen, 44, told the Standard: “Heather can’t even write never mind fill out these forms. She can’t do anything for herself – I do everything for her.
“She has very complex needs and can’t wash herself or put her clothes on. She was assessed by a doctor years ago for eligibility for benefits and we were told it would never have to happen again, as that was her for life.
“All this does is create uncertainly and I worry what will happen when I’m not here.”
The Coalition Government insists the revamp of the welfare system is necessary to weed out those making false claims and ensure those who can work do so.
But MP Cathy Jamieson says she has been flooded with constituents under assessment and she believes some are being wrongly ordered back to work.
The situation prompted last Friday’s meeting in St Matthew’s Church Hall in New Farm Loch with disabled people and those with long-term medical problems.
Ms McGuire talked about proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments and Employment Support Allowance as well as the impact of the so-called bedroom tax, which could see people forced to move home or lose entitlement to help with housing costs.
She said: “While some aspects of the welfare system needed to change, what’s happening now is not what we would have done had Labour been in Government.
“We will continue to oppose unfair changes, but without wishing to raise anxiety for people, some of these changes have been voted through and will impact on local families.
“The proposed changes are complicated, and will be off-putting for many people.
“But when they receive letters from the Department of Work and Pensions, I would urge them to take advice if they are not sure.
“Whatever they do they must not ignore the letters or they could lose out.”
MP Cathy Jamieson told the Standard: “I am particularly concerned at the implications of the bedroom tax and will be seeking clarity from ministers. Many disabled people need extra space for carers, and elderly people may want a spare room for grandchildren or family to stay over.
“As well as being out of touch with the realities of family life, there is not a supply of one-bedroom houses for people to be moved into if they are deemed to be under-occupying.”