A Brighton-le-Sands man who had his leg amputated at the age of 18 after a motorcycle accident has spoken out about his treatment by Atos Healthcare after his case was used in Parliament to highlight the appalling treatment people with disabilities are receiving at the hands of the government.
George Mullin has decided to speak out to highlight how many hardworking and vulnerable people up and down the country are being stigmatised and punished for suffering from disabilities.
The 55-year-old was an apprentice joiner when he had his accident in 1976.
At the time, a solicitor advised him not to go back to work, but George was determined. He returned to full time employment despite suffering chronic pain. His leg developed infections and abscesses, and he developed arthritis in his neck, shoulders, back and the knee and foot of his remaining leg.
But despite this, he reached the top of his trade becoming a clerk of the works.
It was only when a member of HR at the company told him he was being retired on health grounds that he had to stop working.
Throughout his 38 years in work, George paid into his private pension.
He reluctantly applied for Employment and Support Allowance to ensure that he was still paying his National Insurance contributions. As this was contribution-based, applicants only get this allowance for a year, despite the fact that George had contributed for over 38 years. The money he collected was minimal.
But when the Tory-Lib Dem Government came to power they ordered everyone who was considered 'not fit for work' to be reassessed.
George was called in for his assessment and he was appalled at his experience.
George said: "Having worked all my life and never asked for anything, I feel I was treated like a criminal throughout this whole process.
"I attended the work capability assessment with my wife, during which I was quizzed by someone who may not have even been a doctor, who asked questions about how long I had been married. Not once did they ask me any health related questions. I tried to offer information about my medical condition, but they ignored me.
"The only reason I wanted to be recognised as eligible for the Employment Support Allowance was to ensure that I was still paying my stamp. But then there's the ludicrous situation where people who need to get their stamp paid have to get assessed every single year."
George's wife Christine said she was concerned for her husband's health because of what Atos is putting him through.
Christine said: "The way they are treating George, and the stress they are putting him through, is appalling. He is a man who has worked all his life and fully paid into the system.
"I am concerned that George will end up having to go on a 24-hour blood pressure monitor because the stress is so great.
"It's really not right."
George and Christine pride themselves on their privacy. He is fiercely independent and many people, even close friends, aren't aware that he has a prosthetic leg.
But he has decided to come forward because he fears too many decent people are being treated like criminals.
George said: "I never wanted to be in the spotlight. I never wanted to be in the headlines. But I felt I had to come forward for other people.
"I'm not doing this for myself, but for the thousands of disabled people up and down the country who are being stigmatised by a foreign company who isn't fit to do the job.
"We are seeing too many people resorting to committing suicide after being incorrectly assessed by Atos. It isn't right and it needs to stop right now.
"That's why I'm speaking out now and why I want urgent action to be taken."
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson who used George's experience during a damning debate about Atos in Parliament, praised George for coming forward.
Bill said: "George's experience with Atos is shocking, but unfortunately it isn't unique.
"I've been contacted by scores of people who have been treated equally appallingly by this company.
"I want to see the government's contract with Atos terminated immediately.
"I'd like to thank George for coming forward. By sharing his experiences he has added to the pressure on the government to take action."
Bill said: "Atos is failing vulnerable people, and this Tory-Lib Dem Government is not just standing by and allowing it to happen but actively stigmatising those in most need.
"How Atos is treating people is appalling. How the government is treating people is appalling.
"The case of I referred to and the scores of other people's experiences who have come to me are the reality.
"This is about real people - at risk people in our communities - who need help.
"They are being targeted by the government and by a private company which is not fit for purpose and which is dangerously failing the most vulnerable people in our communities."