FEARS have been voiced that the Government purge on benefits cheats is hitting the most vulnerable people in Burnley hardest.
Protesters claimed during a town centre demonstration that genuinely disabled people are seeing their welfare allowance slashed and some are being forced back into work under the Coalition’s benefits reassessment pilot.
Figures from the pilot, which was trialled in Burnley and Aberdeen, say 29% of people reassessed were fit for work and a further 39% could be helped back into employment – but demonstrators say people with real needs are being ignored.
Stephen Anderson (53), of Leyland Road, saw his benefits slashed by almost half to just £65 a week after he was reassessed under the Government pilot.
“Under this new scheme someone ticked a box and said I had got better.
“I feel I have been victimised by it because they know I can’t go out to work. I am just a statistic on a piece of paper to them.
“I think they want me so I don’t exist on the benefits list so then they can say they’ve cut the benefits down.
“It has been cut to £65 a week. You can’t live off that. I have been left with next to nothing.”
The former engineer, who has burns to 65% of his body, has half a lung missing and suffers from leg problems and a displaced hip, is worried he may be forced off benefits completely.
“I am an engineer but I can’t go near engineering stuff because of the chemicals and the fumes. I cannot even do the lifting
“I would end up with no money at all if they said I had to go and find a job. If they stop my benefit I won’t even be able to live. I will be homeless. They don’t understand half the disabilities they are cutting off.”
Maggie Smith, of the Right to Work Campaign in East Lancashire, helped organise the town centre protest.
She said: “It is an ideologically-led attack on poor people to take away attention from the fact that it was the bankers and the wealthy that caused the crisis in the economy.
“It is causing an enormous amount of stress to people who are facing having their benefits cut. These people are among the poorest people who are really struggling.”