Heart attack survivor fighting for his life has benefits axed

(Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch)
A 58-year-old man, who has been seeking work for over a year, had his benefits axed when a major cardiac arrest left him unfit to attend a Jobcentre appointment.

Officials stopped David Duncan’s jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) last week, after the Scot suffered a severe heart attack which landed him in emergency surgery.

Despite having had two stents inserted and life-threatening blockages removed from his arteries, Duncan received little sympathy from Jobcentre staff.

“I suffered a major heart attack – but apparently that isn’t a good enough reason for missing an appointment at the Jobcentre in Dunfermline,” Duncan told the Daily Record.

Duncan went public with his grievance, as the Conservative Party announced plans to push ahead with savage welfare cuts.

READ MORE: ‘End Austerity Now’: Protesters speak out as '250k' decry savage Westminster cuts

Casting aside the call of tens of thousands of campaigners who poured into central London on Saturday demanding an end to austerity, Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith vowed to slash a further £12 billion from welfare spending.

RT spoke to a range of activists who attended Saturday’s demonstration. Campaigners in the “Economists Against Austerity” bloc said deep spending cuts are a choice, not a necessity. Downing Street is misleading voters about the need for austerity because the government can borrow capital at historically low rates, the bloc said.

“The effects of austerity cannot be overstated,” Jo Michell, a lecturer in economics at the University of the West of England (UWE), told RT.

“Despite claims that we are all in it together, the burden of austerity has been disproportionately placed on the shoulders of the least well off and the most insecure,” he said.

READ MORE: Number of disabled Brits dying after benefits cut hidden by DWP, petition demands release

Michell condemned the demonization of benefits claimants and said the previous government’s “attacks” on disabled Britons were “inexcusable.”

Duncan, who hails from Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland, has been seeking a job since he was made redundant from his position in a local bank.

He had never missed a bi-monthly Jobcentre appointment until suffering a heart attack in his home on Saturday June 13.

Duncan, a bachelor, was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where medics immediately performed emergency surgery.

The 58-year-old contacted Jobcentre staff early the following Monday to notify them of his circumstances.

He was informed his benefits would be axed because he was unable to attend his next appointment. This decision was also influenced by the fact he hadn’t completed a mandatory diary to show he was looking for work, the Jobcentre said.

READ MORE: Emotional toxicity of austerity eroding mental health, say 400 experts

Duncan was unable to fill in his diary on Sunday as intended owing to his medical emergency, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. He was told he would have to switch from JSA to employment and support allowance if he was unfit to work for over 13 weeks.

Still recovering from his surgery, Duncan was forced to spend over an hour on the telephone as Jobcentre staff altered his claimant status.

Other claimants who had their benefits sanctioned because they failed to show up to appointments include a man who was hit by a car and rushed to hospital, a homeless teenager who had reading difficulties, a man who was attending a job interview and a man who visited his dying mother in hospital.

Disability rights campaigners in Britain have repeatedly warned spending cuts implemented since 2010 have dismantled the welfare state and impacted severely on vulnerable members of society.

Earlier this month, more than 58,000 people signed a petition demanding the release of figures detailing the number of disabled people to die within six weeks of having their benefits cut. The government has sought to block their publication.