A SEVERELY disabled teen who can’t walk, talk or control his arms was forced to travel 25 miles – to attend a ‘fit for work’ benefits interview.
Aaron Faulkner, 19, was born with a rare genetic condition known as an unbalanced chromosome translocation.
It means he is wheelchair-bound, has acute breathing problems and suffers from cerebral palsy.
Aaron also cannot communicate at all, is fed through a tube in his stomach, wears nappies and requires round the clock care.
After his mother Joanne applied for Universal Credit when he left school, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) arranged for a face-to-face interview with Aaron.
Joanne, 43, asked for the ‘fitness to work’ interview to be conducted at the family home but was left flabbergasted when DWP officials insisted he had to travel into Doncaster Jobcentre for it.
The teen was in respite care in Sheffield, South Yorks., when the interview was scheduled on August 12 after a pipe under his special bath at home exploded and flooded his room.
That meant the family had to travel 25 miles for the interview – just to prove that Aaron is not fit to work despite his medical records stating his condition.
Joanne says taking Aaron anywhere can be like a military operation and she asked the DWP to arrange a home visit but it was ignored.
MADE TO TRAVEL TO DONCASTER JOBCENTRE
The mum-of-two, from Kirk Sandall near Doncaster, South Yorks., said: “Aaron can’t do anything for himself and relies on us.
“Aaron is wheelchair-bound, we have a specially-adapted car for him, with his feeding pumps and everything he needs in.
“He is incontinent and uses nappies and has to be hoisted everywhere.
“He needs two people with him at all times, taking him anywhere can be like a military operation, we can be an hour getting everything ready to go.
“The man who we travelled to see for the interview couldn’t believe it.
“He couldn’t believe we’d been asked to come out to them for the interview, and said he would put a note on his records so it didn’t happen again.
“They could just have looked at his disability records or his Personal Independence Payments records to know he cannot work – or they could just have contacted his GP or one of his specialist doctors.”
Since the appointment, Aaron, who has low immunity to illness, has had to spend a week in hospital with pneumonia.
BORN WITH RARE GENETIC CONDITION
His family, however, say there is no evidence this is due to his Jobcentre appointment.
“We just want to make sure this doesn’t happen again to Aaron or anyone else,” said Joanne.
Aaron was born with his condition and his parents, Joanne and factory worker Lee, 46, have looked after him ever since.
Devoted mum Joanne has spent the last 19 years taking care of her disabled son’s every need and also bringing up her other son Matthew, 14.
Aaron started attending the Heatherwood Special School for children with conditions like his at the age of three but left this summer which prompted his mum to apply for Universal Credit for him.
“He finished school in July, and Heatherwood was brilliant with him over the years,” added Joanne. “But as he was leaving school, we needed to apply for universal credit.
“You have to ring them up to make an appointment for an identity check and fit for work interview.
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“We asked them to come out to us because of Aaron’s condition, but we were literally blanked. They didn’t even acknowledge our request – they just said they would send us an appointment.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We are very sorry a home visit was not arranged, it should have been.
“We have apologised to Ms Faulkner and are processing her son’s claim quickly to make sure she and her son have the support they need.”
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