“If we had met for the first time a couple of years ago, you would have seen a youthful, energetic man in his mid-fifties: fit, busy and capable. A father of three and keen cyclist, with a multitude of interests, a full-time job and an active social life.
“Today, I walk with a stick, feel permanently exhausted, and – friends and family tell me – have visibly aged.
“But if the rapid and overwhelming attack on my physical health might be likened to taking a bad fall, the treatment I am receiving at the hands of the benefits system is akin to being kicked in the teeth when I’m down.”
Photographer Simon Cook has spent the past 30 years working as a photographer. But in 2016 he suddenly began to have problems with his balance and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Since then, he’s suffered mobility issues – ‘imagine standing or sitting on a moving tube train that never stops’ – and exhaustion.
While he wants to work, the 57-year-old, from Penzance, says his condition has made it virtually impossible.
Yet instead of being ‘helped back to work’ or given benefits to live on, he’s been to stop trying to work as a photographer, seek Jobseekers’ Allowance and find something else to do.
He is now having to turn away the little work he was able to do while he waits six months for an appeal. He says his fight is making him more ill and driving him towards poverty and he doesn’t think he’s alone.
He’s compared his plight to the storyline in the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, in which a 59-year-old widowed carpenter has a heart attack, leaving him unable to work, but British authorities deny Blake’s benefits and tell him to return to his job.