A FORMER businessman has gone on HUNGER STRIKE after claiming that changes to benefit payments have left him without enough money to buy food.
Cash-strapped Arthur Gemmell launched his desperate protest after new government rules led to his £62-a-week Employment Support Allowance being withdrawn.
The 63-year-old Paisley man said he has now been left with just £3 to live on and, as he can no longer afford to feed himself properly, a hunger strike is the best way to draw attention to his plight.
Mr Gemmell told the Paisley Daily Express: “I’m staging a hunger strike outside the JobCentre and no solid foods will pass my lips until I get my benefit back.
“I have nothing to live on. The JobCentre people told me to go to the Salvation Army but the Salvation Army told me they don’t give out food.”
Mr Gemmell had a quadruple heart bypass and went on Employment Support Allowance last summer.
Before falling ill, he ran a home improvements business called AGS and paid taxes and National Insurance all of his working life.
However, Employment Support Allowance payments are halted after one year and Mr Gemmell said that has made it impossible for him to make ends meet.
He added: “My allowance has been stopped because, under the new rules, you can only get it for 365 days – but I’m not ready to go back to work yet.”
Mr Gemmell, of Stock Street, said he is now considering going to court in a bid to get JobCentre bosses to reinstate his Employment Support Allowance.
And, in the meantime, he has printed 300 leaflets to hand out to people in Paisley town centre in a bid to drum up support.
He added: “While I’m staging my hunger strike outside the JobCentre, I’m handing out protest leaflets and asking people to sign a petition,”
However, a spokesman for the Department of Work & Pensions defended the decision to halt Mr Gemmell’s allowance.
He said: “The welfare system must support those with the most need – those who have a health condition or disability which means they cannot work and those who do not have any other means of financial support.
“Employment Support Allowance for people who could be expected to get back into work was never intended to be a long-term benefit.
“The time-limit of one year strikes the best balance between recognising that some people need extra help to enter the workplace and that the taxpayer cannot afford to support people indefinitely who could return to employment.”