The Independent London Newspaper
14th December 2018

Man suffered heart attack as he fought to get back wrongly taken away benefits

    Published: 28 April, 2016
    By TOM FOOT

    A TENANTS’ champion was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack during a successful appeal against a government “back-to-work” order.

    Bob Millar, who lives in Kilburn, was challenging a “work capability assessment” (WCA) in March that had wrongly stripped him of his disability benefits last year when a fire alarm was triggered at the Fox Court tribunal building in Brook Street, Holborn.

    The 61-year-old – who sleeps with an oxygen mask and has had four heart attacks in the past year – collapsed trying to get out and was rushed to University College Hospital by paramedics. Doctors concluded that he had suffered severe palpitations.

    The case was adjourned and on Monday a judge and doctor ruled in his favour, reinstating his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) in full and ordering backdated payments.

    Mr Millar said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “have put me through hell”. 

    He added: “It has been horrendous. There was a time when I had nothing at all. It has been degrading and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

    “I had already had four heart attacks in the year before my assessment and I was telling them that when someone punched the fire alarm button. We were on the fourth floor and they won’t let you in the lift when there’s a fire alarm – so we had to go down the steps. I only made it to the second floor.” 

    Mr Millar was vice-chairman of Hampstead District Management Committee and was a key player in the Camden Federation of Tenants. 

    In 2015, he was assessed by a healthcare assistant working for the American firm Maximus – the contractor that has replaced Atos – in an office in Neasden.

    Mr Millar said: “The lady gave me a ‘nil point’ score, but today the judge has given me 15 points [the highest score] and said I should not be assessed for at least two years. 

    “The whole experience has been degrading, because I don’t want to explain about my personal health details at a tribunal, to people I do not know. It made me feel so small.”

    The New Journal has seen the tribunal judgment which states Mr Millar has “significant ongoing issues” and had presented “extensive medical evidence” showing he was unable to work. 

    Mr Millar was backed by Dorian Courtesi, of Camden Assembly of Tenants, and represented in court by the Z2K charity after he was unable to get a solicitor because of legal aid cuts. 

    Mr Courtesi said: “I would say this is the government taking as many people off the ESA as part of Tories’ austerity policy of cuts. It is all about the bottom line and it is unfair and unjust.” 

    A DWP spokesman said the WCA had been improved since it was run by Atos, and that it was now “fairer and more accurate”, adding: “If someone disagrees with a decision they can ask for it to be looked at again, and then appeal to an independent tribunal."

    Comments

    I would have a word with the

    I would have a word with the fire service to check if the alarm that day was set off deliberately to test the claimants physical fitness ability to walk/run.

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