Disabled ‘wrongly told to return to work’ says charity

WIN Ben Palmer, 36, from Buckland who won his case after being told he was fit for work when he wasn't.  Picture: Sarah Standing (120062-8483)
WIN Ben Palmer, 36, from Buckland who won his case after being told he was fit for work when he wasn't. Picture: Sarah Standing (120062-8483)
PCSOs and police officers around Priory School this afternoon

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DISABLED people in Portsmouth are being wrongly assessed as able to work under new welfare rules.

The city’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has revealed it is receiving around 20 requests for help every month from people appealing decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The new tests – called the Work Capability Assessment – are being carried out across the country by private contractor Atos, which is being paid £100m a year by the government.

Chief executive of the Portsmouth CAB, Lynne Davies, said despite attempts to improve the controversial system, she was still seeing cases of people unable to work who were having their benefits withdrawn.

She said: ‘The concern we have is that people are still being found fit for work – and scoring zeros on their disability assessments – when they clearly should not be working.

‘I have seen cancer patients going through chemotherapy deemed to be able to work and it is only after we get involved that these decisions are overturned.

‘We believe that more prominence should be given to the medical evidence of people who actually know and care for these people.

‘Doctors’ views should receive more attention than those of the private assessors employed by contractors like Atos.’

Ben Palmer, 36, of Shearer Road, Buckland, has been left in constant pain by a condition which has caused his hip to crumble away.

But while waiting for a hip replacement he was deemed fit to work in September last year.

He said: ‘They judged me fit for work because I still have the use of my arms, so I ended up in a factory putting tops on cream and perfume.

‘But it was very uncomfortable.

‘I can’t sit still for long because of the pain and I had to stop doing it.

‘It seemed absurd and was very stressful.

‘I want to work but I just can’t.’

Mrs Davies said: ‘In Ben’s case the medical evidence was absolutely conclusive – his own doctor said it was beyond belief that this man was found fit for work.’

Responding to the advice centre’s claims, the Conservative work and pensions minister Chris Grayling said the changes had been introduced to help people escape ‘a life spent on benefits’ and would continue to be regularly reviewed.