Nick Sheldrick, a wheelchair-user with a spinal cord injury, was astonished to be called in for a reassessment of his industrial injuries disablement benefit just two months after he began attending protests at Preston New Road early last year.Really? Why? Why is being caught protesting different from being caught doing other things?
Another of the Preston New Road protesters, a disabled woman with a fluctuating condition, had her Motability vehicle removed after her claim was suspended by DWP.Ah, the 'fluctuating condition'. Always a good one!
She was told that police had sent footage of her at a protest to DWP, and she was even told by a police officer who stopped her while she was driving to a protest in her Motability vehicle that they were “duty bound to tell Motability that you’re using your car for illegal purposes”.
She later received a letter from DWP saying that her claim had been suspended, which led to her losing her car, and she was then interviewed under caution and ordered to pay back £6,000 to DWP, while a file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.Good. For once, the police are working for the taxpayer, and not against!
She was asked in the interview about footage that showed her walking a few steps forward and then a few steps back, and about being seen leaning on a bicycle as she walked up a hill.
She said: “What they were saying was absolute rubbish. Where are the photos of me falling over, me sleeping for 12 to 16 hours?
“To get people on benefits they take your benefits away. It’s to stop us from protesting, it’s to deny us our rights from protesting, that’s what it’s about.”No, love, it's simply pointing out that if you can do these things, you can do other things. Like work.
Another disabled eyewitness who has spent time at the Preston New Road site and knows this protester said this week: “I weigh up how I am going to spend the energy that is available to me that week and my capacity for [coping with]pain.
“It is a conversation that she and I have had about how we both – for any activity we do – will either spend time resting up in preparation to be able to do it or resting up to recover from it and to cope with the pain that has been caused.Why can't you weigh up the costs of working in a similar fashion?
“Police and DWP are trying to curtail people’s human rights by trying to stop them protesting.
“They are making me worry every time I go out to somewhere like that that it is going to cost me my ability to pay my rent, because they are going to say, ‘If you are able to stand at the gates, you should be able to do a full year’s work.’”Actually, no-one's saying that. Just pointing out that when it suits you, you aren't that disabled.
But she said that she and others make this decision to stand at the gates in pain “knowing it is going to cost [us]a lot of exhaustion later”.
She added: “Just because I can do something for a few hours a week does not mean I have the same ability as somebody else who is not disabled.”Doesn't mean we should pay to keep you on the sick for the rest of your life either. If you can get to a protest, you can get to a workplace.