Concern raised over Government plans to change invalidity payments

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MORE than 13,000 Doncaster residents are having their incapacity benefit claims reassessed under a Government shake-up.

Many could see their payments cut and may be forced to start looking for work again as part of the plan to reduce the current 1.6 million claims nationally.

But people claiming the benefits say they will struggle to get by under the new system, and fear they are unlikely to find work in the current economic climate.

Nigel Walshe, a clinical negligence specialist who has been offering advice to Doncaster people for 14 years, believes many genuinely disabled and sick people will be worse off under the new proposals.

He said: “Incapacity benefit is already very strictly assessed and the likelihood is that fewer people would qualify for the new assessment.

“There is considerable fear and anxiety among Doncaster people about the possibility of losing existing benefits which they depend on. I

“t is causing a great deal of unnecessary pain to them.”

Peter Patchett, 49, and his partner Stella, 51, both claim incapacity benefit and have already seen their fortnightly money cut by almost half to £176.

It forced the couple, who live in Paxton Avenue, Carcroft, with Stella’s 17-year-old autistic son Robert, to get two Government crisis loans worth £200 to make ends meet.

Mr Patchett, who said he cannot work because of mental problems caused by childhood trauma, said: “It’s putting families who need support on the poverty line.

“Our money is going down and things are going up. We’ve still got a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed.

“The assessment didn’t even test my mental condition – the nurse didn’t want to know.

“I want to get work but I have to be in the right frame of mind. I’ve had to be mentally strong for my family to survive.”

Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton also fears many living in her constituency could be left vulnerable.

She said: “I support changes to the benefits system which mean that if people can work they should.

“However, the Government is bringing in new benefit tests which are going to create confusion, muddle and risk denying people who need help and support.”

Ministers claim the reassessment will help those previously written off get back to work and regain independence.

Employment minister Chris Grayling insists the most severely disabled and people who are terminally ill will not be expected to look for work.

He added they will get extra help through a new employment and support allowance.