A disabled man from Sutton-in-Craven has been told he is fit for work – despite being a full-time carer for his elderly mother.
Graeme Tyldesley is a blue card holder with a degenerative spine disease and is currently in remission from cancer of the bladder.
He also cares for his 82-year-old mother, Maisie, who has Alzheimer’s Disease and cannot be left alone.
But following a work capability assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), his employment and support allowance – formerly incapacity benefit – of around £280 per month has been stopped.
Mr Tyldesley, 57, who worked at Airedale General Hospital for 21 years including 14 years as a porter until he was retired in 2002 because of ill health, is appealing against the decision with the help of Craven Advocacy.
He also has letters of support from his GP and the consultant who cares for him with his spinal disease.
But even though the appeal could go in his favour, until a decision is made, the allowance will remain cancelled – possibly for several months.
“When they told me I was fit for work, I was really upset and it has caused me a great deal of stress,” said Mr Tyldesley, who has seen his anti-depressants increased as a result.
“I can see why they are having to do this, but I think they’re targeting the wrong people.”
The work capability assessment included Mr Tyldesley performing some simple physical tests, such as being able to lift a telephone or sit down – but did not take into account the care of his mother or her wellbeing.
In order to continue receiving the allowance, he needed to score 15 points, but he only scored six.
The decision letter acknowledged he might be shocked, but that entitlement was not based on his health condition or disability, but on what he was capable of doing.
“They’ve told me I’m capable of doing some sort of desk job, but I’ve never done anything like that. I was a porter for 14 years and I loved my job, but I’ve no experience at desk work,” he said.
He has been told he could qualify for Jobseekers Allowance – but that will depend on him being available for work.
His mother, who lives with him, has professional carers who come in four times a day to wash her and prepare her for bed. But the bulk of her care is carried out by her son, who is with her all the time, including at night, when she regularly wakes.
“She cannot ever be left alone and if I was not here with her I would have to employ a full-time carer, or she would have to go into a home, which I really don’t want, it must cost less for me to care for her as well,” said Mr Tyldesley.
“My mother suffers panic attacks and sometimes I will get just two hours sleep at night.”
Mr Tyldesley does receive a pension from the hospital and is in receipt of disability living allowance, but without incapacity benefit, he will have to resort to his limited savings.
Sharon Hodgson, from Craven Advocacy, which helps people with advice and support, said she was shocked by the decision and was convinced that Mr Tyldesley should continue to receive the allowance.
“I was really shocked, I thought on his medical grounds alone he would score 15 points, and that was without taking into account how difficult it is to care for someone with Alzheimer’s,” she said.
She added the service, which is a charity, has seen large numbers of people coming to them having had their incapacity benefit withdrawn.“
These assessments don’t take into account the full picture, people are being treated like numbers and its just not right.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Employment and Support Allowance assesses someone’s capacity for work and looks at what a person can do because we know conditions affect different people in different ways.
“A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough face-to-face assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.
“We have made considerable improvements to the work capability assessment to make it fairer and more effective. If someone disagrees with the outcome of their claim, they have the right to submit new evidence and appeal.”