A DAD was disgusted after his severely disabled son was told to prove he couldn’t work – in order to receive benefits.
Liam Barker has been on life support since he was born paralysed.
Liam, who was not expected to live past three months, defied his prognosis and celebrated his 18th birthday in December last year, despite being born with a rare and terminal muscle-wasting disease.
He needs a ventilator to breathe and constant care from his parents Phil, 52, and Michelle Barker, 44,
Two weeks ago, Mrs Barker, who also has daughter Britney, 12, discovered that Liam’s child benefit payments had been stopped.
The family, from Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, were shocked to receive a letter telling them Liam would be entitled to employment and support allowance but that he may need to attend a ‘WorkFocus interview’ to receive them.
Mr Barker said: “I discovered the letter last week. We’d been on a week’s respite and it was there when we got back.
“My wife looked at her bank account two weeks ago and found that Liam’s child benefits had been stopped.
“This letter said that instead he could get employment support, but that he might have to attend an interview to prove he couldn’t work.
“I rang Stockton Benefit Centre and a woman on the phone asked me: ‘Can he work?’
“I tried to explain his medical condition and she just said: ‘It’s a yes or no answer, it’s a standard issue form.’”
“I said my son couldn’t work. She said he may need an interview and medical assessment.
“I explained there was no way he could come to an interview because the only appointments he has are at the hospital – Liam can blink and that’s it.
“We’re still waiting on news on what we’re supposed to do now.
“I don’t think they really understand the situation and if they’d just looked into his National Insurance number or looked into his records properly they would realise he can’t work.”
The Department of Work and Pensions says candidates found to be incapable of work receive long-term support.
A spokesman for the DWP said: “Often as a child gets older their needs change over time.
“The Work Capability Assessment looks at what a person can do, not only on what they cannot.
“If someone is not capable of any work, then they will of course get long-term incapacity support through the benefits system.”