BENEFIT assessors have ruled a man left almost blind by a road accident as fit to work – just weeks after he came out of a coma.
Alex Howe, from Coxhoe, County Durham, is blind in one eye and has severely reduced visibility in the other, struggles to walk and has lost hearing in one ear.
He was left reeling when he was told he is not eligible for disability benefits.
The father-of-one said: “It feels like I’m being called a liar. It’s a big weight on me. I can’t believe it.”
Mr Howe was seriously injured in a crash on February 2, when he was thrown into a metal post after his motorbike collided with a car near the Poachers Pub in Metal Bridge, between Coxhoe and Spennymoor.
After being airlifted to hospital, the 35-year-old was in a coma for ten days and had to spend almost two months in hospital recovering. He had a fractured face, back and ribs, and punctured lungs.
Mr Howe, who was a chef at KFC before the accident, was discharged from hospital on March 30 and applied for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Following an assessment, he found out this week that he was not eligible for the disability benefit.
He said: “It gets you down not being able to do stuff for myself. I can’t even play games with my daughter. I used to be able to cook anything and the other day I nearly set fire to the house making a bacon sandwich.
“It feels like the assessment has been written about someone else.”
His father, John, has given up his job as a taxi driver and moved from his home in Crook to look after his son because he struggles to cook and go to the shops by himself.
He said: “They asked if he could lift his arms up. He’s almost blind but that doesn’t stop him from lifting his arms.
“It’s ridiculous and it’s affecting people’s lives. My son really needs it. People don’t deserve to be treated like this. They’re ruining people’s lives.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.
“Anyone that disagrees with a decision can appeal.”
Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, said: “This is yet another horrific example of the effect government cuts have had on people’s everyday lives, and I have sadly seen too many cases like Alex’s around Durham.
“Earlier this year the Government overruled a decision made by an independent tribunal and further restricted Personal Independence Payments, without going through the proper Parliamentary channels. Unfortunately, the Conservative Government have a track record of introducing measures that disproportionally effect those with a disability and they are excluding 160,000 disabled people from the support they are rightfully entitled to.”
In 2016-17 Citizens Advice County Durham helped more than 5,500 people with PIP assessments, including more than 1,000 people who wanted to challenge the decision.
Chief executive Neil Bradbury said: “This sort of story is all too common. We get a lot of people who are quite surprised at the PIP assessments and we have seen a lot of clients who are not happy about the results.
“In many cases its challengeable and we encourage people with PIP problems to come and speak to us.
“It’s incredibly common and it’s a big problem.”