Disabled scaffolder facing major benefits cut

Paul Marsden
Paul Marsden

A WIGAN man who medically “died twice” after a horrendous workplace fall is battling a major benefit cut.

Former scaffolder Paul Marsden is now planning an appeal after being, he claims, unfairly targeted in the Government’s controversial drive to slash the state’s funding of those declaring themselves unable to work through incapacity or disability.

They asked me whether I can make a cup of tea or boil an egg and propel myself in the chair for 50m

Paul Marsden

The single dad, who is registered disabled, has been put on the lower level of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after undergoing a medical assessment whose decision was confirmed at a benefits tribunal hearing in Wigan County Courts last month.

Unrepresented, Mr Marsden is claiming procedural irregularities meant that he wasn’t given a proper opportunity to present his own case.

Now, after meeting Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Wigan Citizens’ Advice Bureau, he is hoping to secure legal aid so that he can be legally represented at the appeal.

Employment and Support Allowance replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support and is paid because of an illness or disability.

The main change it introduced is that the old Personal Capability Assessment has been replaced with a Work Capability Assessment undertaken by private sector contractors Atos, which the government claim will give a better view of the claimant’s ability to undertake some form of work.

Paul, of Cornwallis Road, Worsley Mesnes, lives with his 15-year-old son Luca who helps him dress, wash and cook.

He was left wheelchair-bound after a truly horrific accident in 1994 at work on a German building site which left him in a coma for a month and led to years of painful recovery. Doctors initially gave him minutes to live after the 120ft fall.

The catalogue of injuries included a shattered jaw, every bone in both feet broken, a compound fracture to his left leg to which came through the skin and breaks to his right tibia and left femur.

But in December, as part of the Government’s drive to reduce the benefit bill, he underwent a medical assessment to establish his suitability to continue to receive the new ESA payment.

Within a month he was stunned to find that he had been adjudged sufficiently fit for work to no longer qualify for the full amount.

The £200 per month cut he faces on his benefit total leaves him, he insists, now unable to care for his son properly.

He said: “I am in favour of benefits being restricted to those in genuine need.

“But what has happened to me has certainly made me question the way the Government has gone about things.

“They asked me whether I can make a cup of tea or boil an egg and propel myself in the chair for 50m.

“This gives me a certain amount of points on their clipboard and that apparently puts me in a category of fitness where I now go onto the lower level of ESA, even though I can’t wash myself and dress myself without the help of my son.

“The tribunal hearing was a joke because they kept looking at the clock and, although there were some questions, I was never given the chance to give my evidence, even though I was told initially that I would.

“The cut represents a huge amount to our household.

“I can go without but it breaks my heart that my son is going to have too as well, considering all he does for me without complaint every day.”

A DWP spokesman said: “There are a large number of wheelchair users in work in the UK and employers have a responsibility under the law to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff.

“The decision finding Mr Marsden fit for work was based on a thorough assessment which took into account all medical evidence provided.

“He still receives Disability Living Allowance to support him with the additional costs of his disability and is also eligible for Jobseekers’ Allowance until such time as he is able to find suitable employment.”

The spokesman was keen to stress that the panel which heard Mr Marsden’s case was independent of the DWP and run by the Ministry of Justice.