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Disabled Bodmin dad Trevor Higgs wins first round of fight for benefits

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 05, 2014

  • Mr Higgs with the letter that stated his income was too high to qualify for Employment and Support Allowance

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A BODMIN father has won the first stage of a battle to have his benefits reinstated after his family of four were forced to live on £800 a month.

Disabled former postman Trevor Higgs, 42, was shocked when ATOS Healthcare, which assesses claimants for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), declared him fit for work after an assessment last March.

Hundreds of thousands of households across the UK were affected by changes to benefits from April 2013 as part of government plans for the biggest shake-up of the welfare system for decades.

Mr Higgs was born with spina bifida and sustained severe injuries including a shattered shoulder when he was attacked in 2002 and as a result he now suffers from arthritis and walks with a stick.

The father of two, whose wife is also unable to work, has not been able to work since the attack but after the assessment declared him fit for work his benefits were cut from £492 a month to £320.

Although Mr Higgs also receives further financial support on top of this figure, the total his family has to live on a month stands at £800.

The decision from the ATOS Healthcare professional was made despite a similar assessment in 2007 stating that Mr Higgs's condition was "unlikely to change in the longer term". Mr Higgs said: "In 2007, ATOS assessed that I was medically unfit for work, but then they said I am fit for work, which has meant I've had a huge cut in my benefits.

"The assessment stated that I have 'no treatment' for my spina bifida although I take prescribed painkillers and there were several other incorrect statements made. I've made inquiries about getting work. But if I do a full day's work, I become bedridden for two days because I'm in severe pain; who would employ me knowing that?"

Mr Higgs' appeal to have his £492 a month allowance reinstated was turned down at a tribunal last month after all of his supported evidence, including that from his doctor, was not considered valid.

To make matters worse his £320 allowance was also then cut due to a miscalculation.

"The DWP mucked up the figures and said I had more money coming in than the law says I need to live on, but they were using my monthly income figure and classing it as weekly, and therefore cut the money off completely.

"Earlier this week I received an apologetic call from the DWP and my £80 a month was reinstated."

Mr Higgs said this is a "small moral victory" but believes bigger battles lie ahead as he attempts to push for an upper tribunal to have the full amount reinstated.

He added: "My focus now is to clear my family name and if possible prove the assessment wasn't accurate."

A DWP spokesperson said a decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a “thorough” assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant.The spokesperson said: "We are committed to helping people move from benefits and into work if they are capable, while giving unconditional support to those who need it."Through a series of independent reviews and by working with medical experts and charities, we have considerably improved the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process since 2010. “The percentage of people entitled to Employment and Support Allowance is now at its highest level with over half of people completing a WCA eligible for the benefit, but everyone has the right to appeal a decision if they disagree with it."

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