Assessment disgrace: ‘Fit for work’ man dies before ESA appeal can be heard

Disability benefit assessors have been widely criticised for deciding wrongly that people are ‘fit to work’. The situation is a disgrace, the criticism is well deserved.

There have been a number of examples, but none more tragic than the case of Phillip Balderson. He had terminal cancer, but received a Department for Work Pensions (DWP) ‘fit for work’ assessment in February. It meant he no longer qualified for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) that he had received previously. The decision was a disgrace – and he died less than four months later.


Phillip Balderson was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in 2013 (Image:

Phillip didn’t live long enough to see his appeal through but this Thursday the Baldersons are taking his challenge to a tribunal. I, for one, wish his family every success.

The full story, written by John Jeffrey, appeared on Mirror Online. It read:

Cancer patient dies before he could appeal the DWP ruling that he was ‘fit to work’

Phillip Balderson’s heartbroken family will now challenge that decision at a tribunal after he battled oesophageal cancer, psoriatic arthritis, anxiety, OCD and mental health problems.

A cancer patient died before he was able to appeal a Department for Work Pensions (DWP) ruling that he was “fit to work”.

Phillip Balderson’s heartbroken family will now challenge that decision at a tribunal.

The 46-year-old had worked at a Lake District hotel, but was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in 2013.

He also struggled with psoriatic arthritis , anxiety, OCD and a number of mental health problems.

Despite his difficulties, the DWP summoned him to a health assessment in February 2017 and ruled he was no longer eligible for Employment [and] Support Allowance.

They told him he had to look for work.

Mr Balderson, originally from Burnley, Lancashire, began appealing the decision.

But sadly died on June 5 before he could see the process through.

His daughter Chloe Balderson, 23, said: “He had terminal cancer and they were trying to send him to work. The people at the job centre were disgusted.”

The family, supported by Citizens Advice in Windermere, will be attending a work capability appeal to overturn the decision at South Cumbria Magistrates’ Court, in Barrow, on Thursday, December 14.

If it rules in their favour, any benefit payments will go towards the funeral.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Balderson’s family at this time.

“We are contacting Mr Balderson’s next of kin to ensure they’re paid any benefits owed at the time of his death.

“The amount paid will be dependent on the result of the Work Capability appeal that is currently at tribunal.”

Terrible the way they treat people

Mr Balderson’s partner Rachel Stockley, 49, said: “He was getting Employment [and] Support Allowance, that was all fine, but then his dad died and his mental health got worse.

“Phillip just went downhill from there.

“Then he got a letter to say he had to go for an assessment and he was worried.

“He was being judged by someone who was meeting him for the first time and that was that.

“He was complaining about pains in his liver before he had to go to his job centre appointment, and got worse before his assessment.

“I’m doing this for Phillip really because he was gutted.

“I think it’s disgusting, it’s terrible the way they treat people.”

The family, who live at Maychells Orchard in Allithwaite, Cumbria, have suffered a number of setbacks as Miss Stockley was also diagnosed with cancer back in 2010.

She said her partner of 25 years never talked about his diagnosis and was “frightened” by it.

“He loved the quiet and loved walking, even when he was really ill we’d take him driving and he’d fall asleep in the car.

“The authorities need to show more concern towards people’s needs and not judge them by how they look but you see it all the time.

“You just can’t prepare yourself for it, even though you know it’s going to happen, it’s no different from someone dying suddenly,” she said.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Madeleine: No proof only theories dominate sad story

maddie kate.gerryMadeleine McCann, aged 3 when first missing, and parents Gerry and Kate.

Disappearance of anyone is worrying but when the one missing is a child, it is more than a worry, it is disaster and a panic until, hopefully, the little one is quickly found and reunited with parents.

In the case of Madeleine McCann, however, we are now approaching the 9th anniversary of the date she was reported missing from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve coast.

What happened to her? Well, the truth is that we don’t know. It seems that no-one really knows – despite years of investigations by the Portuguese authorities, British police and private detectives. Operation Grange, the Scotland Yard investigation that has been cut back drastically since it began, has just been granted a final £95,000 for another six months. After that, the case is likely to be closed.

The only person or people who do know what happened are the ones responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance and, if she is still alive, the girl herself. There are those who favour various different scenarios. There are some who believe that the three-year-old was abducted from the apartment; there are others who believe she died in the apartment and that her parents disposed of the body.

On Facebook, people with these and similar opinions tend to be drawn into two types of groups, basically known as ‘pros’ and ‘antis’. The ‘pros’ are backers of the abduction theory and support the parents, while the ‘antis’ believe Madeleine died in the apartment and accuse the parents.

Both sides point to files of evidence collated by the Portuguese investigation and made public in 2008 under that country’s laws. They claim that different parts of the evidence give credence to their own opinions; their own pet theories.

Now, I know that this is likely to make me unpopular and even get me barred from some of Facebook’s ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ groups to which I belong (yes I am a member of both types) but there is one remarkable fact about the evidence so far made public. It does not support any particular theory over another. It does not indicate what actually happened; it does not point towards the involvement, much less guilt, of anyone.

‘Antis’ cite, as evidence of death in the apartment, the alerts made in the dog searches while the ‘pros’ dismiss this as uncorroborated by forensics and say the searches were badly run by the handler. Having watched the full unedited recording of the searches, I can see why the dog alerts were discounted by the Portuguese investigation.

The two sides also disagree about the involvement of Gonçalo Amaral as head of the Portuguese investigation. ‘Antis’ quote his belief that Madeleine died in the apartment, despite the fact that the evidence made public does not confirm that. The ‘pros’ point out that Amaral was once proven to have lied in another case. However, the fact that he lied once is not evidence or proof that he is lying this time. Amaral, now retired, has put his beliefs in a book which has not been published in the UK after the Madeleine’s parents took legal action.

So, where does that, and other arguments, leave us? Exactly where we started. All we know is that Madeleine was reported missing on the evening of May 3, 2007. Despite many, many reported ‘sightings’ around the world, she has never been found. Nor has a body ever been recovered.

The files of published evidence point absolutely nowhere.

It was a mystery in 2007; it is a mystery now. And that, I fear, is how it will always remain.