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.

Taking care of a partner with a disability can be a labour of love

Perhaps the most overlooked people in the world of disabilities are not the people living with ds abilities but those living with them – the husband or wife who take cares of their loved one.

They are the family carers who devote so much of their lives doing all sorts of things which can include dressing them, feeding them, washing them and even assisting with toileting needs.  And a that, and more, adds up to great deal of hard work.

My beloved Lisa pushed me in my wheelchair around New York City in December 2014. Here we are at te top of the Empire State Building.

My beloved Lisa pushed me in my wheelchair around New York City in December 2014. Here we are at the top of the Empire State Building.

As I have multiple sclerosis, my loving wife Lisa is also my carer. She fastens buttons, puts on my socks, helps me to shower, makes sure I can eat the food on my plate with my one good hand, does all the housework without assistance and takes care of the garden. What’s more she pushes me around in a wheelchair.

Lisa is reluctant to be labelled as a carer, however, saying that she looks after me out of love as my wife. I am sure many husband and wife carers feel exactly the same way.

Each caring situation is unique and carers have many different needs.  They may need information about entitlements, services and individual and group support and social opportunities.  In the UK, every family carer can also undergo a Carers Assessment which could open up many opportunities for them including time out from caring, sitting services and physical help with their caring role.

By joining a carers’ support group, they can socialize with their peers and get help with their entitlements to benefits and services, breaks, education or employment.

And they can get help to access grants and benevolent funds so that they can buy items which will benefit them in their caring role.

Really important, though, carers can join a carers’ support group where they can have a chat and get a chance to meet new friends.


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Fun facts to entertain you

Just for a bit of fun, here are a few facts about me that you probably don’t already know or don’t even want to! Well, you probably know a few but not all of them.

1.       My third forename is Hunter, my mother’s maiden name.

2.       I was the only one of my parent’s family to be born outside the English county of Sussex; I was born in what was then Kent. My birthplace is now in the London Borough of Bromley.

3.       I am the youngest of three siblings. My sister is seven years older than me and lives in Devon, England. My brother, who was 11 years older than me, died in April 1990 at the age of 48.

4.       My earliest childhood memory is of being wheeled in my pram and left outside while mum went into a shop. Not something recommended these days.

5.       Although never sporting at school, I played both cricket and hockey (on grass, not ice) for local clubs.

6.       I qualified as a football (soccer) referee while still at high school and immediately started refereeing matches between adult teams. Often I was the youngest person on the pitch.

7.       I was once fired three weeks after I resigned! All a bit silly, I had already given four weeks’ notice but one week before my planned departure I was fired for refusing to work one evening because I was going to a formal dinner dance with the guy who would soon be my new boss. When he heard about it, he told me I could start my new job a week earlier than planned. Not bad – as my new job paid almost double the old one.

8.       Corgis, to be exact Pembroke Welsh Corgis, played a major role in my formative years. Most Saturdays were spent at dog shows. My mum started breeding and showing corgis when I was six or seven and she later became an international judge. She also was a judge at Cruft’s.

9.       Up to the age of 11, I attended a private fee-paying school but from then until I left, aged almost 18, I went to a regular state-funded high school.

10.   Two bones in my right ankle were broken in an accident while riding my bicycle in 1968. Six weeks in plaster from toes to knee, walking with crutches. Still remember it. Another time, I broke a finger on my right hand playing the supposedly non-contact game of basketball in the school gym. I still recall being told to walk to the local hospital by myself.

11.   I fell in love with politics at the age of 10 and at 14 joined the youth section of a political party even though its minimum age was 15. I didn’t lie, they just bent their own rules. In the years since I have voted for various parties as my views and circumstances have changed. Now that I live in Spain, I am allowed to vote in parliamentary elections in the UK and local elections in Spain.

12.   Hobbies? Not really had the time for those although I have been involved in the running of various not-for-profit community and charitable organisations. These days, most of my ‘hobby time’ is dedicated to preparing and publishing this blog.

13.   Although brought up and later confirmed as a member of the congregation of the Church of England, I have since changed my faith. While recognising that all faiths and deities are equally valid, I am now a Pagan and follow the Wiccan religion.

14.   It is no secret that I have a disability caused by Multiple Sclerosis. This is one of a few illnesses and conditions that affect me but my life is full and enjoyable. Apart from difficulty with walking, standing and using my left side generally, I feel well and like to do everything that I can.

15.   I follow the fortunes of quite a mixed bag of sports teams: Football (soccer) – Fulham and Spain; Rugby Union – Ospreys and Wales; Cricket – Sussex and England; Formula One – Anyone who can beat Mercedes; Baseball – NY Mets.

16.   There are two distinct musical loves in my life: Country and the Sixties.

17.   Holidays are rarely better than those taken aboard a cruise ship. You get to take part in shore excursions every time you dock and enjoy dining and entertainment on board. You visit different towns, even countries but only unpack once as the ship is a floating hotel – and much more.

18.   Following 63 years of living in the UK, I have now moved to Spain with my adorable New York City-born wife, Lisa. We arrived in Spain on November 15, 2015, and now live in our own two-bedroomed single-storey property in a small community in an agricultural area with a real Spanish village nearby. The nearest town is Cuevas del Almanzora which is only about 10 minutes away by car, while the Mediterranean coast is a drive of about 15 minutes.

Life through time

OK, this might seem a bit self-centred but this blog includes so much about Lisa and I today, a little looking back may not be a bad thing. So let’s begin by delving back 63 years, yes there I am, about 4 – 6 weeks old with my brother Graham, aged 11, and sister Averil, 7.  Today, I am 63, Averil is 70 while, sadly, Graham died aged 48. He would be 74 now.


baby_edited alone





Me a few months old, not sure of the exact number. Note the blond curly hair.




















Our family in, I think, 1959: Back: Averil, 13, Graham, 17, and Dad. Front: Me, 6, and Mum.

young referee
















1970: I qualified as a football (soccer) referee and started refereeing adult matches in the 1969/70 season while I was still at school – good job that the players didn’t know that their referee was still in high school. This picture was taken when I was 18.


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At work, about 1976, so 23 going on 24. The fashion was for longish hair covering your ears – not easy to accomplish when you have natural curly hair.


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Solemn and smiling, which do you prefer of these two photographs? I know that these were taken in early 1982; I was aged 29.

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In 1983 I was Senior Warden of the Masonic lodge of which I had joined in 1979. I would become Master in January 1984.

wedding day 2011






31st October 2011, sunset on Samhain/Halloween: Lisa and I, just married on Fort Myers Beach in a pagan handfasting ceremony by a Notary Public, licensed by Florida to conduct weddings. Our wedding was eight days before I turned 59.

murder mystery

Lisa and I with the remainder of the cast of Murder at the Theatre, performed at Theatr1 Colwyn, North Wales, UK, in August 2014. Lisa wrote the murder mystery, directed it and ended up acting in it (all for the very first time) when one of the cast pulled out – and that is why she was presented with her very well-deserved ‘Star of Fame’ award. 1Welsh spelling.


Joanne and us_edited_edited14th November 2015, our last night in the UK before moving to Spain. Joanne Jones joined us for our farewell meal in the Paanshee Bengali Restaurant in Prestatyn. Note my new hairstyle, curls and waves are all gone – now its ‘number two all over’.



15th November 2015: Lisa and I arrived in Spain to start our new life together.

We met in Second Life, an online virtual world; we took our relationship into real life; now we are living happily in our new life in the sun.

We were told by some that we would not make a go of it; others wished us every happiness.

Lisa and I are really happy and plan to be so for a very, very long time.

Meet the family, episode 3, on last night in USA


What a really fantastic time Lisa and I have enjoyed, first spending eight days cruising across the Atlantic, then another eight touring around four states in north-eastern USA.

Yesterday was our last full day in the US and what better way to draw our adventure to a close than for a third get together with more members of Lisa’s family?

In a previous blog, you could have read about our November 7 visit to Great Aunt Nina and her son Anthony, followed the next day with a hotel brunch which also marked my birthday. That was when we met up with Lisa’s sister Gen, her husband Billy, and their three adult children Marie, Jamie and Pam, along with Pam’s close friend Scott.

joannaLast night, having travelled to New Jersey, we met up with Lisa’s first cousin Joanna, who is also her godmother, Joanna’s son Anthony (yes, another one) and his wife Maryann. That makes Anthony my love’s first cousin once removed. I know that because I checked; they are not, as many suppose, second cousins.

The maternal side of my beloved’s family is pure Sicilian and so it was no surprise that the five of us enjoyed a wonderful meal at Il Giardinello Italian restaurant in the town of Toms Hill. The meal itself was delicious and more than plentiful as there were a number of dishes of which the quantity was so great that several packs were made up to take home.

However, as delightful as the meal was, it was not the highlight of the evening. That, of course, was the reunion of Lisa with her family members – and my pleasure in meeting them for the first time.

Cousin Anthony is proving to be an entrepreneur as, besides his permanent ‘day job’ he has set up and now runs a very successful local adult softball league. On top of that, he organises an eight week long non-residential summer camp for youngsters from the age of four to 15. Mum Joanna and wife Maryann also help out with the camp.

As anyone would suspect, when families get together much of the conversation is only of interest to them and is likely to appear boring to others, as such it has no place here. What is important, on the other hand, is the relationship between family members, their interests and family news such as weddings, births and new additions to the family through marriage – like me!

Above all, alongside Lisa’s delight in meeting up again with so many of her relatives, it is with more than a little pleasure that I have been welcomed into such a vital and lovely family.

Pictures: Top, Anthony and Maryann. Inset: Lisa and Joanna.


Family love and celebration

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As days continue to pass by, amazingly it is now just a week until Lisa and I are due to fly to Spain to begin our new life in our home in the Mediterranean sunshine. Right now, we are in the United States of America halfway through a holiday in Lisa’s home country.

Saturday and Sunday have been special family days. Two days ago we travelled to upstate New York to visit Great Aunt Nina and her son Anthony. Neither of them had seen Lisa for many years and had never met me.

mumNina was aunt to Lisa’s late mom Mary but, being close in age, they had been more like sisters.  Today, Aunt Nina is 92 years old but certainly doesn’t look or sound like it. She is a lovely little lady, full of spirit and totally aware of everything that is going on. I say ‘little’ as Nina is just 4’9” tall.

Years ago, she moved from New York City to the rural area with her husband Tony.  There, they ran a dairy farm as well as growing corn and grass for hay. In the early years, all milking was done by hand of which Lisa has fond childhood memories but one thing she did not know was revealed by Aunt Nina. She said that when she first moved to the farm she only had city clothes and was soon driving the tractor while wearing high heels. Now, that would be a great photograph.

In the area in which Nina and Anthony live is an absolutely fantastic barbecue restaurant and takeaway. It uses open charcoal pits to cook the tastiest chicken I have ever encountered. It is called Brooks and, on the strength of what I tasted, I strongly recommend trying it out if you are ever in the region of Oneonta, NY.

Having said a very fond farewell to Nina and Anthony, we set off yesterday to meet Lisa’s oldest sister Gen, her husband Billy, and their children Maria, Jamie and Pam along with her partner Scott. All eight of us enjoyed a superb buffet brunch that also served as a celebration of my birthday. In fact, it has been very many years since I have been joined by so many people on my birthday.

It was an occasion of good humour and family celebration as we were asked questions about what we had done so far in the USA, what we still have planned and our upcoming move to Spain.

Lisa and I are two-thirds of the way through our great adventure. Part one was the transatlantic crossing that I had dreamed of as a child, part two is our current tour of four states in the north-east of the USA, and part three will be our arrival in Spain, heralding the start of our new life.

Birthday footnote: Thanks to everyone from whom I have received birthday greetings, either personally, via Facebook or via email. So far, 63 years and many more to come (I hope). Actually, 63 is a good number as it means I can say I’m 21 again, for the third time.

Pictures at top from left – Aunt Nina and me; she is standing while I am sitting.  Lisa’s sister Gen, right, with daughters Pam and Maria. Lisa with Aunt Nina. Inset – Lisa’s late mom Mary and her Aunt Nina had been like sisters.