Moneymore man ‘had nothing to live for’ after being left penniless at Christmas by ESA cuts

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic condition that can cause chronic pain throughout the body
Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic condition that can cause chronic pain throughout the body

A Moneymore man who relies on Employment Support Allowance [ESA] after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, was left penniless last Christmas after having his benefit cut.

Michael Craig ran his own company inventing and making equipment for security services before the peace process made it redundant.

No stranger to work, the former electronic technician and inventor, said he often put in 20-hour days as MD of the one-time successful firm.

But after being diagnosed with both fibromyalgia and clinical depression, the 60-year-old now relies on ESA to put food on the table.

When Incapacity Benefit was changed over to ESA, Mr Craig said he was put through three Work Capability Assessments [WCA], all of which he “failed”.

And after “basically living on £60 a week for a couple of years... they cut me off altogether,” he told the Mail.

Already depressed because of his condition, which causes severe pain in his connective tissues, Michael said he was left despairing at what he described as the “physiological torture” of WCAs.

“I was left penniless the Christmas before last and had absolutely nothing for weeks,” he explained. “They cut me off at the end of November 2014 and I had no money at all until the middle of February 2015 and they had to pay me back.

“I was really at the end of my tether - I had nothing to live for,” he went on.

On the same drugs for pain as terminal cancer patients, Michael said the WCAs - which have replaced medicals by a qualified doctor - did not take into account his illness, only asked a long list of questions like “can you move your arm?”

“I am not some kind of lazy scrounger,” he told the Mail.

Now Michael wants Stormont to rethink the system. The Department of Social Development said they will respond to the claims.

Read more: Stormont puts Mid Ulster’s sick through the mill but won’t reveal the cost