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Dead man declared 'unfit for work'
Graham Shawcross, who was declared 'unfit for work' four months after his death. His wife claims the stress of the benefits process killed him.
A GRIEVING widow was told the appeal against the loss of her husband’s incapacity benefit was successful — four months after his death.
Graham Shawcross, of Coleridge Avenue, Radcliffe, died of a heart attack on February 17 aged 63.
Yvonne, his wife of 23 years, claims the stress of losing more than £400 a month in benefits and launching an appeal against the decision caused his death.
In November, Mr Shawcross received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) informing him he was no longer entitled to incapacity benefit after an assessment found he was fit for work.
But Mr Shawcross suffered from Addison’s disease — a rare adrenal gland disorder which affects hormone production.
The condition, which he treated with steroid medication, caused exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and cramps and can lead to adrenal crisis, which can be fatal.
Mrs Shawcross said: “Graham would surely be alive today if it was not for the stress.
“The month before he died, you could tell he was going downhill.
“His stress levels were going through the roof and he was upping his steroids to higher levels every day.
“Graham was talking about his appeal constantly and writing the details out dozens of times a day.
“He was a proud man and what upset him most was that he thought they were calling him a liar.”
Mr Shawcross had suffered from Addison’s disease since the age of 21 but worked at Radcliffe Paper Mill for 36 years before taking a job at Folsana Pressed Sections in Sidney Street, Bolton.
He left due to ill health about a decade ago.
After appealing the decision at the end of January, he was summoned to a hearing in Bury on June 19 — despite Mrs Shawcross informing the DWP of his death.
On June 24, a second letter arrived stating Mr Shawcross’ appeal had been granted and he was eligible for Employment and Support Allowance for at least the next 24 months.
Mr Shawcross, father to 30-year-old Gary and Rebecca, aged 21, volunteered as the treasurer of the Bolton Road estate tenants and residents association.
Mrs Shawcross, who runs a school kitchen, said when he attended his medical assessment with Atos Healthcare he brought with him a large folder about his condition, which was not consulted.
She added: “If Graham could have worked he would have loved to work.
“As it turns out, he did not even need to go through all the stress, because he won his appeal. But it was all for nothing.”
Bury South MP Ivan Lewis said: “Graham Shawcross was a remarkable man, who for nearly 40 years, worked hard despite having a chronic illness.
“I am demanding that Iain Duncan Smith conducts a review of Graham’s case and issues an apology to his family.”
A DWP spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Graham Shawcross.
"A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken by DWP following a thorough independent assessment, and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist. ”