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Dr Stephen Duckworth: Use Work As Therapy

September 9, 2013


The paralysed man in charge of assessing benefit claimants has said the UK expects too little of disabled people.

Dr Stephen Duckworth, who broke his neck during a rugby accident 33 years ago, said society is letting down the disabled by not demanding a contribution from them.

The 53-year-old now leads the team that  will assess those who apply for the personal  independence payments, which will replace the disability living allowance.


Dr Duckworth said: ‘We need to move to a culture where employers recognise employment is therapeutic as opposed to illness-creating.

‘It is far better to go back to work to get better than to wait to get better to get back to work. Use work as a therapeutic intervention.’


Dr Duckworth – who trained himself to breathe by using his diaphragm rather than his chest muscles – believes more than 20 per cent of  Britain’s five million disabled have wrongly become dependent on benefits.

He said ‘at least a million, probably north of a million’ of those ‘deemed to be disabled… have got there through system failure and the way society is organised’.

The father of four – who receives DLA himself and will be assessed for the new benefit – said that minor injuries had become ‘a very common avenue towards multiple benefit receipt’.


In an interview, he details a claimant’s possible path after an accident ‘that could have happened at work as a result of lifting a box of photocopy paper’.

He says: ‘It gave you a bit of a limp; you get a no-win, no-fee solicitor, a claims farmer, coming up to you.’

As a result, he continues: ‘You get, say, £6,000 in damages from your employers, that builds your impairment, you’re off work for six months, then drop from full pay to half pay, then statutory sick pay.’

After which, Dr Duckworth says ‘you’re feeling the financial pinch’, and he envisages the claimant realising he can get an enhanced income from employment support allowance, and going on to claim it.

The scenario, he says, is: ‘Do my work capability assessment, get signed off on to the employment and support allowance at £106, so have a bit to pay the loan sharks back, [but] I am depressed and my partner has left me… my life is falling apart.’

Dr Duckworth, who served on the board of the Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012, was suicidal after being paralysed as a medical student, but he refused his parents’ offer to look after him.

He said: ‘When I broke my neck, my mum and dad said, “Don’t worry, Stephen, we will build you a granny annexe”, and I screamed until I was blue in the face.

‘If they had built me one I would still be living there, they’d have wrapped me  in cotton wool and I’d never have got  back to London.’

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2013 2:14 pm

    methinks this Dr*
    is another Tory clone!
    I cannot imagine fair asseccment’s happening here*
    but then I could be just an old cynic?

  2. September 9, 2013 2:30 pm

    A very major floor with this scenario is in that if you were just disabled only you would already be working if you could as without any pain you would be daft not to work

    And that is what holds sick and disabled back as a genuine employer will not employ someone in pain and would be very foolish to do so

    only someone reckless and deceptive would employ someone in pain disabled yes but not pain

  3. Captain I.lor permalink
    September 9, 2013 2:59 pm

    Duckworth, another disabled sell-out to this fascist state.

  4. September 10, 2013 10:04 pm

    I would like to work but have a fluctuating condition. Some days pain control other days Inam in agony. I feel I have a good grip on something and then it smashes to the ground. Some days I have clarity others I mislay things, make mistakes and become very frustrated. Would I employee me, sadly no, would it be safe for others working with me a no.

    Do you not think any self respecting human being would not want to do their bit? I did for twenty years and wish I could now instead of 28 tablets, five injenctions daily and a bemused look on life. I really could do without the ATOS and PIP interigations and humiliations. I don’t need putty, I don’t need to made to feel a sponger. I need appropriate help from society to help me get by and make life worth living.

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