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Fit to work: Shocking picture of severely ill man denied disability benefits

Wasting away:
Stephen Smith’s
weight had dropped
to 6st when he
was in hospital
at Christmas PICTURE: LIVERPOOL ECHO

WEIGHING just 6st and barely able to walk, Stephen Smith was deemed fit to work by officials who denied him disability benefits.

The shocking picture was taken at Christmas when the 64-year-old was being treated in hospital for pneumonia and other severe health problems.

Despite his condition, he was forced to ask doctors for a day pass so he could attend a tribunal to challenge the Department for Work and Pensions.

It repeatedly refused him employment and support allowance (ESA), insisting he was fit to work, despite letters from doctors stating that he was unable to walk 65ft without collapsing in pain.

Mr Smith suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is incurable and causes severe breathing problems.

He also has osteoarthritis, an enlarged prostate and a colostomy bag.

‘I had no muscles in the back of my leg which meant I couldn’t stand up at all — but they were telling me I was fit for work,’ said Mr Smith, from Liverpool.

His case was taken up by benefit advisers at the city’s Casa community centre. And last month a judge upheld his appeal, stating he was entitled to ESA. Mr Smith said: ‘Without [Casa] I probably wouldn’t be here today. They have saved my life.’

A DWP spokeswoman said Mr Smith had ‘continued to receive all of the benefits he was entitled to’.

She added: ‘He has now been reassessed, reflecting his changing condition and will be receiving full ESA support. Any claimant can appeal a decision for free to an independent tribunal.’