St Agnes man judged fit to work and then found dead within a year
A CHRONIC alcoholic who had previously suffered two broken hips and used a walking frame was told he was fit to work in a benefits test.
Nine months later, John McGinty was dead. He was found at home by his son, surrounded by around 100 empty Special Brew cans.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said its thoughts are with his family – and that they have made considerable improvements to the work capability assessment.
Mr McGinty, 61, was found at his St Agnes home on June 16 last year.
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An inquest ruled the cause of death could not be determined but Cornwall Coroner Emma Carlyon said his self-neglect, injuries to his chest and hips, and his alcohol addiction, could have been factors.
Anne McGinty, who was divorced from Mr McGinty ten years ago, said afterwards his serious alcohol addiction left him with two broken hips and unable to walk without a support frame.
Towards the end of 2011, he was called to Atos in Truro, the firm tasked with carrying out controversial fitness to work tests for the DWP.
Mrs McGinty, who drove him there, said: "He shuffled into the building and I thought they'd take one look at him and realise he can't work."
But, following a medical assessment, he was deemed fit for work and his employment and support allowance and housing benefit were stopped.
She said: "He was asked to raise his arms and legs, and walk a few yards, all of which he managed to do. As a consequence of this he lost his benefits.
"We wrote letters appealing, detailing his health problems and alcoholism – he couldn't even walk to the shops.
"Soon after this, his drinking got worse, I think it was his way of blacking out his problems.
"He wasn't eating or looking after himself. We were worried that he would lose his house."
Mrs McGinty added: "You feel so helpless. I was shocked when they said he was fit for work when he had serious mental and physical problems. He was in a large amount of pain.
"It was humiliating for him going through the assessment."
The assessments were brought in to help cut the number of people claiming disability allowance unchecked for long periods.
Last year, Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance protested outside Atos's offices on Pydar Street, claiming tests for people on disability allowances were unfair, "damaging and distressing".
The DWP said all claimants have a right of appeal following a face-to-face assessment, supported by medical evidence provided by the claimant.
It added: "Our thoughts are with the family at what must be a very difficult time. The work capability assessment (WCA) assesses someone's capacity for work and looks at what a person can do because we know conditions affect different people in different ways.
"We have made considerable improvements to the work capability assessment to make it fairer and more effective."
Atos Healthcare added: "Our sympathies are with the friends and family of Mr McGinty."
"Although we cannot comment on individual cases, our trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists carefully follow the guidelines given to them by the Government when conducting assessments, which form a single, although important part of the process."