Six-stone man deemed fit to work by DWP dies

Stephen Smith Credit: Liverpool Echo

A six-stone emaciated man who was deemed "fit to find work" by the DWP has died.

Stephen Smith, 64, died on Monday, after struggling with a number of severe health problems.

His case hit the headlines recently when a fitness for work assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) denied him vital benefits.

Shocking images showed the 64-year-old Liverpool man emaciated in hospital after he was admitted with pneumonia.

However, despite his glaringly obvious poor health and worrying weight loss, Mr Smith was forced to leave hospital to fight a decision by the DWP which insisted he was fit and capable of finding work.

He won the appeal after a tribunal judge saw he could barely walk down the street let alone hold down a job.

And after finally agreeing to re-instate his benefit, the DWP confirmed he would also receive back-payments for the money he was wrongly denied.

One friend said: "He never really recovered from the pneumonia. He was a good soul of the earth. He would do anything for anyone."

Mr Smith suffered with a number of serious conditions for several years, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate. He also had a colostomy bag.

Despite all of this, he failed a DWP work capability assessment in 2017 - which meant his Employment and Support Allowance payments were stopped and he was told to sign on for a £67 a week Jobseeker's Allowance, visit the job centre once a week and prove he was looking for work.

Throughout this period, Mr Smith was living alone and didn't know where to turn as his health deteriorated.

He said: "I could only make it to the kitchen to make food once a day. I had no muscles in the back of my leg which meant I couldn't stand up at all - and had to lean or sit down all the time - but they were telling me I was fit for work."

Mr Smith enlisted the help of the CASA community centre in Liverpool which offers support to people like Stephen.

Tony Nelson, who runs the centre, introduced Mr Smith to Terry Craven, a former city council welfare officer who works at the CASA advising people on benefit claims.

After Mr Smith was denied ESA, Terry took up his case and battled with the DWP to get him the benefits he knew he deserved.

Following the successful appeal of his case a DWP spokesman said: "We are sorry for the experience Mr Smith has had and we are committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they're entitled to.

"Following the independent tribunal’s ruling, he is now receiving full ESA support. While Mr Smith continued to receive benefits and support during his appeal, we can confirm he will shortly receive all back-payments for ESA due.”

A service for Mr Smith will be held at Anfield Crematorium on Friday 3 May.

He was supported by volunteers at the CASA in Liverpool. You can find out more about their work and fundraising here