Six-Stone Man Who Could Barely Stand Declared Fit To Work
Back in 2011, a government plan to tighten up the UK benefits system sent out a warning to people who had 'tried to play the system, or thought they could get away with doing the bare minimum'.
However, there has been much criticism of the execution of this plan in the years that have followed, with reports of claimants being asked 'Why haven't you killed yourself?', and even a double amputee being told he was no longer eligible for the mobility aspect of his Disability Living Allowance. Sadly, these stories continue to emerge.
Meet Stephen Smith from Liverpool - he was declared fit to work, even though he weighs in at barely six stone and he is unable to walk or stand due to his many illnesses.
After the DWP took the decision to cut his benefits, he decided the only thing to do was fight back.
A lengthy process culminated in him having to obtain a pass to leave the hospital to argue his case at a tribunal hearing. However, Stephen won, after the judge saw that he was clearly unable to work in his condition.
The 64-year-old suffers from the seriously debilitating condition Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - an incurable respiratory problem that causes extreme issues with breathing - along with Osteoarthritis, and an enlarged prostate which requires the use of a colostomy bag.
Stephen was even hospitalised over Christmas with pneumonia and there were fears for his life after his weight plummeted to 6st (38kg).
Stephen was first declared fit to work in 2017 when he failed a DWP work capability assessment and calls to grant him Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were denied.
During this time, Stephen was living alone and having to sign on to get just £67 ($87) a week.
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."
As his health rapidly declined Stephen didn't know what to do or where to turn - but there were two people who helped him through his toughest times.
Tony Nelson and Terry Craven were there for Stephen when he needed support and he believes if it wasn't for the pair he'd have died.
Tony runs the CASA community centre, which offers a range of support and help to people in need.
Through this, Tony was able to introduce Stephen to Terry, a former city council welfare officer who works at CASA advising people on benefit claims.
Terry took on Stephen's case and even made sure he was seen by two doctors - both of whom confirmed the 'significant difficulty' and pain caused to Stephen when he undertook even the most basic of day-to-day activities.
One doctor even said Stephen couldn't walk 20m without it causing him pain and leaving him exhausted.
Stephen added: "Without them and this place I probably wouldn't be here today - I had nowhere to turn- they have saved my life."
With the case finally won, Terry believes Stephen could be entitled up to £4,000 in backdated payments.
In a statement a spokesperson for the DWP claimed Stephen has 'continued to receive all of the benefits he was entitled to, as well as offers of personal support to improve his skills and health issues'.
They added: "He has now been reassessed, reflecting his changing condition and will be receiving full ESA support. We're committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they're entitled to.
"Decisions for ESA are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist. Any claimant can appeal a decision for free to an independent tribunal."
Featured Image Credit: Liverpool Echo