Times caption: Stephen Smith had to leave his hospital bed to appear before a tribunal (LIVERPOOL ECHO)
A piece in yesterday’s Times:
A man whose illness left him weighing six stone and barely able to stand had to leave hospital to fight a decision by officials who declared him fit to work.
Stephen Smith, 64, of Liverpool, suffers from several debilitating conditions and took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to a tribunal after he was repeatedly denied the correct benefits.
Mr Smith has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an incurable respiratory problem that worsens over time. He also has osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate gland and has to use a colostomy bag.
Despite doctors submitting written evidence that he could not walk more than 20 metres, Mr Smith spent more than a year fighting to receive the correct benefits. After he was deemed fit to work in 2017, his employment support allowance was stopped and he was only able to claim £67 a week in jobseeker’s allowance by visiting a jobcentre once a week to prove that he was looking for work.
His health deteriorated and photographs from hospital showed how thin he had become as he was treated for pneumonia over Christmas. He had to obtain a pass to leave hospital and appear before the tribunal.
His initial appeal was rejected by the DWP in January last year, when officials told him that he had not scored enough points to be considered as having “limited capability for work”. The decision was finally overturned by a judge, prompting an apology and the promise of £4,000 in back payments from the DWP.
However, Mr Smith said that he might have died had it not been for the help of two men from a local community centre who took up his case. “I had nowhere to turn. They have saved my life,” he said. “I could only make it to the kitchen to make food once a day. I had no muscles in the back of my leg which meant I couldn’t stand up at all — and had to lean or sit down all the time — but they were telling me I was fit for work.”
A DWP spokesman said: “We’re committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they’re entitled to and we are sorry for the experience Mr Smith has had. Following the independent tribunal’s ruling, he is now receiving full support.”
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