A government department has apologised after it was revealed a man with several debilitating illnesses was deemed fit to work.
Stephen Smith was denied benefits, despite barely even being able to stand.
The 64-year-old from Liverpool was rushed to hospital over Christmas because his health had deteriorated so significantly. Despite his condition, and weighing less than six stone, he had to leave in order to contest a decision by the department of work and pensions (DWP) that he could work.
The DWP insisted Smith was fit to work after he failed a work capability assessment and instructed him to sign on for job seekers allowance and attend a job centre on a weekly basis.
It was only after a tribunal judge said it was “glaringly obvious” Mr Smith could not walk down the street, let alone seek work, that he won his appeal.
Smith suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, an enlarged prostate and uses a colostomy bag.
He told the Liverpool Echo: “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.”
Stephen, who was living alone at the time, thinks he would have died were it not for Terry Craven, a former city council welfare officer, and Tony Nelson, a community worker.
The pair helped Smith seek medical advice, including one doctor whose assessment read: “It is my opinion that Mr Smith could not walk 20 metres without pain or exhaustion.”
Smith said that without the help of the men and others he “probably wouldn’t be here today. I had nowhere to turn. They have saved my life.”
The DWP apologised and said Smith would receive benefits backpay, after the Echo reported his story.
A spokesperson said: “We are sorry for the experience Mr Smith has had and we are committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they’re entitled to.
“Following the independent tribunal’s ruling, he is now receiving full ESA support. While Mr Smith continued to receive benefits and support during his appeal, we can confirm he will shortly receive all back payments for ESA due.”