‘Hunger strike is my next option’ says Chester man after his allowances are reduced
A grandfather suffering from severe vertigo is prepared to go on hunger strike outside the office of city MP Stephen Mosley if his benefits are cut any more.
Shaun O’Neil, 51, of New Crane Street, Chester, says on good days he has constant dizzy spells but on bad days can collapse in a heap.
Although the former computer network engineer would love to work, he accepts it is unrealistic and believes no employer would hire him any way.
To make matters worse, he can’t afford taxis to get out of the house when he’s really ill because of a reduction in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the complete loss of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – now called the Personal Independence Payment.
“I hate being on benefits and I hate being stuck in this flat 24/7,” said Mr O’Neil who can walk short distances on good days but needs help from friends with frying food, can’t risk pouring a boiled kettle, has pre-chopped frozen vegetables because he could slip with a knife and has to sit on a stool in the shower.
The internet can be his only lifeline to order shopping and keep in touch by Skype with his American ex-wife Siobhan, with whom he has children Oliver, 31, and Emma, 23.
Mr O’Neil puts his neurological condition down to physical abuse when he spent time in a US jail for re-entering the country illegally around 2003 after he went in search of his then spouse after they became separated.
And the father of two, who suffers from depression because of his quality of life, has decided to speak out now as he believes disabled people are losing their benefit because of a ‘government agenda’.
He is particularly scathing about the French company Atos, actually brought in by Labour to assess whether people are fit for work.
Mr O’Neil says the stress of undergoing assessments can exacerbate medical conditions, as in his own case, leading some people to deteriorate and even take their own lives.
“I’ve just had enough and I think what people need to realise is that what the Government is doing is criminal because they are killing people.”
Mr O’Neil is currently awaiting yet another Atos medical and fears he may lose his ESA and be put on jobseekers’ allowance.
“It’s less money and also means I have to actively go out and look for work, which I can’t do and even if I could, nobody is going to hire me.
“I talked to Stephen Mosley MP’s office and I said if you take any more from me, I will be outside your place going on a hunger strike and that’s my next course of action.”