There have recently been a number of reports in local newspapers up and down the country of sick or disabled people being taken ill while attending Job Centres. Given the fact that the Work Capability Assessment is seriously flawed and some very seriously and even terminally ill people are being passed as ‘fit for work’ and being forced to attend Job Centres under threat of losing benefits, this is a budding trend that could potentially become an every day occurrence.
Job Centre staff have already been given training in dealing with suicidal claimants, a tacit admission by the DWP that its policies are having a devastating effect on many people’s mental health. Is it now time for staff in Job Centres to be trained in basic life support and resuscitation techniques and for all Job Centres to be equipped with defibrillators, to deal with the growing likelihood that very sick claimants could need urgent medical attention whilst under their roof?
If you think this sounds ludicrous consider the following news reports. For instance back in March of this year an ambulance was called to a Job Centre in Grays, Hertfordshire when a man collapsed. By the time the paramedics arrived, despite attempts to resuscitate him, the man had died. Had the staff been properly trained in basic CPR its possible his life could have been saved.
In July this year an ambulance was called to a Scunthorpe Job Centre when a man complained of chest pains. He was later diagnosed as having had a panic attack which when severe enough can give rise to chest pain, pallor and a feeling of shortness of breath – symptoms very like those of a heart attack and just as unpleasant. Had staff been trained in First Aid techniques,whilst they may not have been able to accurately diagnose his problem they would at least have felt more confident in supporting him and calming him down until the paramedics arrived.
The following story which is reproduced in full below was published in yesterday’s Watford Observer and highlights the absolute madness of Iain Duncan Smith’s assault on the chronically sick. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Disabled man suffers ‘mini stroke’ during Watford Job Centre interview
James has to endure unexplained episodes – thought by some doctors to be transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), or ‘mini strokes’ – which leave him temporarily paralysed.
A brain damaged disabled man who regularly suffers seizures thought to be possibly ‘mini strokes’ was struck down by one – midway through a Watford Job Centre interview, geared towards getting him back into work.
James Laver, 46, has to endure unexplained episodes – thought by some doctors to be transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), or ‘mini strokes’ – which leave him temporarily paralysed.
Despite the fact his GP said he is ‘completely unable to work at present’, Mr Laver was still called into the Job Centre, in Exchange Road, on Tuesday afternoon for an appointment as he had been placed into the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), which is aimed at ‘preparing him for work in the future’.
Since having a full stroke in 2008, in which he suffered minor brain damage and nerve damage to his left side, Mr Laver has suffered seizures which paralyse him for an hour and cause him to feel dizzy and to slur his speech.
The exact nature and cause of the seizures have divided opinion among doctors, with some believing they are TIAs, which are caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain resulting in a lack of oxygen to it.
This can cause symptoms similar to those of a stroke, such as speech and visual disturbance and numbness or weakness in the arms and legs.
However, a TIA does not last as long as a stroke. The effects only last for a few minutes and are usually fully resolved within 24 hours.
Nevertheless, Mr Laver has still been classed as someone who can prepare to go back to work and attended a Job Centre interview on Tuesday.
Mr Laver, who claims disability living allowance, said: “I was put on the floor and was swallowing my tongue, and began to choke. I managed to get myself into the recovery position, but staff then put me back on my back. I quite possibly could have died.
“The attacks are getting worse and are becoming more frequent. Whenever I’m in A&E I’m told it’s a TIA, or possibly a TIA, or not a TIA or stroke, or possibly epilepsy. I think it’s a TIA.
“When I visited my partner in Australia two years ago I was having fits and the Royal Melbourne Hospital said they were TIAs.
“I’ve had five attacks this week in the space of a few days. Nobody this week has told me what they were.
“The woman in the Job Centre was mainly going on about why was I there when I was obviously not fit to work.
“She was just reading stuff on the screen, saying they couldn’t overturn the decision made that I should be in a WRAG.”
An Atos Healthcare spokeswoman said: “We were able to advise Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that Mr Laver was not fit for work without the need for a face-to-face assessment.
“DWP makes all benefit decisions and has found that he should continue to receive sickness benefit.”
Regarding Mr Laver’s seizure at the Job Centre this week, ambulance service spokesman Gary Sanderson said: “We were called at 2.19pm and we conveyed a male to Watford General Hospital for further assessments.”
When asked what the nature of the illness, Mr Sanderson added: “We cannot comment on that as it is unknown.”