The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that negative media reports regarding a man with epilepsy who suffered with severe seizures forced them to reconsider slashing his benefits.
Luke O’Donnel, who suffers with the common and debilitating medical condition, missed a work-related Jobcentre appointment because seizures had prevented him for attending.
The 24-year-old say’s the way he was treated was “cold hearted” and could not understand how the benefits office could use his medical condition as a reason to stop his payments.
Mr O’Donnel had his benefits reinstated after his story was first broke by inews. However, he still wanted to know the reasons behind the DWP’s original decision to withdraw the vital lifeline.
Mr O’Donnel wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP in June. “I wanted to see what she had to say”, he said. “How does she justify these problems she’s causing people?”
In response to the letter, Ms Mcvey said: “I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you have had, and hope this letter will provide clarification.
“The decision maker who reviewed the second reconsideration decision on 28 March 2018 found that the previous decision makers had not fully considered the implications of your health condition, and the serious impact this was having on you at the time you failed to attend an appointment.
“I can confirm that this review of the reconsideration decision was prompted by your media enquiry.
“The decision made to overturn a reconsideration included a full review of all evidence and information, and I can assure you that… the decision maker made a fully considered and detailed review of your circumstances when reaching this outcome.”
Mr O’Donnel has since described the roll-out of Universal Credit as an “appalling shit show” and called on the Government to pause it’s roll-out.
“It’s an appalling shit show… at the minute. It’s not there helping people at all. It’s causing people far too much stress.”
Mr O’Donnel has now found a job working for a broadband company but hasn’t forgotten his ordeal.
“It feels brilliant to be working again”, he said. “I’m loving having the routine and feeling as though I have purpose once again.
“I was lucky to find an appropriate job with an employer who supports people with disabilities and health conditions. I’m enjoying the pay cheques too.”
He added: “I feel far less stressed… there’s no worrying about whether I’ll be sanctioned again and what for this time.”