Derry man left in vegetative state asked if ‘fit for work’

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A Derry man who was left in a permanent vegetative state after a sectarian assault in 2006 has been asked by the Social Security Agency (SSA) if he is fit for work.

Former civil servant Paul McCauley (36) has been in 24-hour care since being left brain damaged following an attack involving up to 15 people at Chapel Road in the Waterside in July 2006. The father-of-one had been attending a barbeque with friends in a private garden when they were set upon by the gang.

His father Jim today said that last Christmas a letter arrived from the SSA , complete with a 12 page document, aimed at determining Paul’s fitness to work.

Mr McCauley, who is still campaigning for his son’s assailants to be brought to justice, told the BBC his family are disgusted by the letter.

“In the majority of the questions we had to record that our son is in a permanent vegetative state,” he said.

“I tried to phone the department but I didn’t get through to anyone. I was later sent a second form and I assumed it was an error.

“I filled in the first form myself and attached the specialist neurosurgeon report along with a report from Paul’s GP. Something the Social Security Agency should look at is how they collect information,” he said.

“All the agencies are entitled to collect their information but some greater sensitivity should be shown for those involved in an industrial accident, a road accident, a sectarian or drunken attack. There is a lot of trauma for the family and it’s not eased when forms like this really rub salt in the wounds.”

The Social Security Agency said: “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.

“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.”