Hospice patients being sent letters urging them to return to work

Whitehall blunder: The Department for Work and Pensions has been sending back-to-work letters to the dying

THOUSANDS of dying people are being sent letters urging them to consider getting a job, it has been revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions writes to everyone claiming the new Employment Support Allowance suggesting that they see a personal advisor to “help you move towards work”.

That includes those whose families have specifically told officials that they have less than six months left to live.

Ministers have admitted that 1,000 terminally ill people were sent the letters in just three months in a written answer to MPs.

The shocking figure comes after David Cameron railroaded his brutal welfare reforms which will take cash from disabled children and cancer sufferers through Parliament.

The letters state: “You can volunteer to work with a specialist personal adviser or job broker who will support and encourage you to carry out reasonable steps to manage your illness or disability and undertake relevant activity which will help you move towards work.”

They do say that those receiving them “are not required to take part in any work-related activity”.

But that doesn’t stop them causing upset and alarm among dying people and their families, Labour MP Tom Greatrex warned.

Mr Greatrex uncovered the scale of the problem after coming across the case of a constituent Stevie McGowan, 51, who was sent one despite being blind, bed-ridden and suffering severe dementia.

His wife Elizabeth said it was an insult for officials to suggest that the former painter and decorator, who was struck down by multiple sclerosis in 2002, should be considering work.

She said: “We thought is was a joke. And when I say that paragraph I thought it was an insult to Stevie.”

Elizabeth, 49, of Blantyre in Scotland, added: “There is no amount of ‘support’ that they could give my husband that would enable him to go back to work.”

The Department of Work and Pensions stood by the letters. A spokeswoman said: “There are no conditions attached to the financial support you receive if you have a terminal illness.

“However, it would be wrong not to give those with a terminal illness the same opportunities as others. All our customers are told about the extra support their benefit entitles them to.”

But Mr Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said that officials should stop causing upset and alarm by sending the letters to the terminally ill.

“The Government know these people are nearing the end of their lives and it is clearly inappropriate to be sending these letters suggesting they should go back to work.

“It is causing unnecessary distress to people who are terminally ill and their loves ones and they should stop it.”

Related Links:
* Man in coma loses benefits as ATOS classifies him fit for work
Rob Ray, libcom.org
* People are dying during wait for Atos chaos benefits judgement
Kate Devlin, The Herald

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