Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Social Security Agency asked twice if my immobile son could work

Paul McCauley has been in a permanent vegetative state since being attacked by a sectarian gang in Derry in 2006
Paul McCauley has been in a permanent vegetative state since being attacked by a sectarian gang in Derry in 2006

The father of a man left in a permanent vegetative state has slammed the Social Security Agency which twice asked if his son was fit for work, and has now called for changes in the way information is collected.

Paul McCauley (36) suffered severe brain damage after he was attacked by a sectarian gang at a barbecue near his home in the Waterside area of Derry in 2006.

He has been in a vegetative state since and requires around-the-clock care.

Despite his father Jim (right) completing a lengthy document detailing the severity of his son's condition for the SSA, he was later sent a second letter repeating the same 30 questions.

He is now calling for immediate changes to be made to the way information is collected by the agency.

Speaking to the North West Telegraph, Mr McCauley said: "I am not saying the SSA do not need to collect data, they do, but there needs to be a much greater degree of sensitivity in the way the go about it.

"We received a document which had been posted on December 23rd last year and it spoiled our entire Christmas for us.

"I didn't raise this before, but there was a similar case to ours in the media last week and I was angered that what happened to us was not an oversight, but seems to be standard practice.

"Completing one of these lengthy documents is quiet harrowing because you have to give basically the same answer to every question, so you are going over and over the same thing repeatedly.

"It was bad enough having to fill this form in once, but they sent out a duplicate form a few weeks later which meant you were going over it all again, and we also had to get reports from Paul's neurosurgeon and his GP.

"It's not good enough. The system needs to be looked at and people need to be treated with a bit more sensitivity."

A spokesman for the Social Security Agency said the forms were being sent out because of changes to the benefit system.

The spokesman added: "Whilst the Social Security Agency is unable to comment on individual cases, it does acknowledge that asking family members to complete complex benefit forms on behalf of their ill relative can sometimes be both difficult and emotional.

"Incapacity benefit is being replaced by employment support allowance and the 83,000 existing incapacity benefit claimants do not automatically receive the new benefit, but are mandated by law to complete an application form if they wish apply for it.

"In all cases the agency writes to and telephones all claimants to talk them through the process and offer support.

"The agency has put in place arrangements to fast-track applications by people who are terminally ill or have a serious illness to ensure they receive their payment as soon as possible.

"In these types of cases involving terminally ill or very seriously ill people, the health assessor will decide that there is no requirement for a face to face assessment to determine if the claimant is fit for work."

BACKGROUND

Paul McCauley has never regained consciousness after the attack by a loyalist gang at Chapel Road in the Waterside in 2006. A number of people have been arrested and questioned about the assault but just one man, Daryl Proctor, is serving a 12-year term for grievous bodily harm. Police have previously said the investigation into the attack remains "active and ongoing".

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