Man With Spinal Injury Found Fit For Work
A former foundry worker who has not worked for 21 years after injuring his back in an industrial accident has been told he is now fit enough to look for a job.
Charles Foreman, who is in continual pain and has to use a walking stick, frame or wheelchair to get around, has been told he does not qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), following an assessment by a doctor working for Atos Healthcare on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The doctor judged he fell far short of the minimum eligibility standard and, as a result, his £97-a-week incapacity benefit will be withdrawn on October 28.
Mr Foreman and his wife. Karen, both 52, are challenging the decision because they say the doctor’s assessment report does not give a true picture of his disability.
He said: “I would love to go back to work. I hate my life and have considered suicide because of the pain.”
Mr Foreman has a degenerative spinal condition and takes a cocktail of 21 tablets a day to fight pain and depression. He also takes liquid morphine which causes drowsiness and prevents him from driving or using heavy machinery.
To qualify for ESA, Mr Foreman had to score at least 15 points in his work capability assessment. But the Atos doctor who visited his Market Harborough home in August gave him no points at all in 16 of the 17 categories, and six points in the remaining category.
Mr Foreman said: “I don’t think the doctor who assessed me gave a true picture of what I have to go through and the pain I suffer in my back, neck, arms and legs.”
The former club athlete injured his back while shovelling blocks of sand at a foundry in Shropshire when he was 21. He returned to work after three weeks, but his condition deteriorated and after a decade he was made redundant for taking too many sick days.
Mr Foreman was then signed off as sick for three years before his entitlement for disability benefits was granted in the mid-1990s.
An MRI scan earlier this year confirmed he has damage to his neck and lower spine and, on October 14, his GP confirmed he was unable to work because of “chronic back pain”.
Mr Foreman qualified for assessment at home after he was turned away from the Atos Healthcare centre in Leicester earlier this year – because he was in a wheelchair.
As the Mercury reported at the time, he was told the office, in Halford Street, was not equipped for wheelchairs and would pose a health and safety risk if there was a fire. Atos Healthcare later apologised for turning Mr Foreman away.
Karen, a shop manager, said: “There is no way Charles can work. They didn’t even allow him to be assessed at the Atos centre because he has to use a wheelchair and cannot climb stairs. I cannot understand why he does not qualify for the allowance. The assessment report does not show the difficulty he had or the pain he went through doing the movements he was required to do.
“He cannot sit for any length of time without having to move. He cannot stand for long, either. He also cannot lift anything with any weight in it.
“He has problems sensing the heat of objects with his hands. He also has major problems walking. He also finds it difficult to concentrate.
“What kind of work could he do? We feel we are banging our heads against a wall but we are determined to get justice.”
Since the new assessments for ESA were introduced, there have been more than 600,000 appeals, about 40 per cent of which have been successful.
A spokesperson for the DWP, which was also commenting on behalf of Atos Healthcare, said: “There is strong evidence that working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition. But we also want to ensure those who need it get the right support, which is why a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.
“Anyone can appeal against a decision.”