Vote: Do you think benefits assessments should be filmed? Hartlepool man calls for improvements after being wrongly ruled as fit to work

Ian Fewster protesting outside of the assessment centre, Park Tower, Stockton Street.
Ian Fewster protesting outside of the assessment centre, Park Tower, Stockton Street.

Benefits chiefs have apologised to a Hartlepool man after he was wrongly ruled fit for work despite suffering a serious spinal injury that left him needing a wheelchair.

Ian Fewster took to the streets to protest what he calls the “unfair assessments”, which saw his benefits cut.

Mr Fewster suffered a serious spinal injury more than 15 years ago and has struggled to walk ever since.

He has had multiple operations, suffers chronic pain and is on the maximum morphine available for his injuries.

The former businessman appealed the decision which found him fit to work and no longer entitled to Employment and Support Allowance and cut £200 a month from his benefits.

When his decision was revised, Mr Fewster claims he was told he was just the second person to have an assessment overturned in Hartlepool.

Ian Fewster

Ian Fewster

It comes after the Channel 4 show Skint Britain showed the effects benefit sanctions were having in Hartlepool. which was one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of the new Universal Credit system.

Now Mr Fewster, who is registered disabled, wants to help others who are in the same position – saying he is one of the “lucky ones”.

The 60-year-old says the original assessment report, which took place on October 31, 2018, found he could “raise from a chair with no arms and a straight back without any assistance or aid”.

But Mr Fewster said: “I at no point in my assessment ever sat in a chair of that description, so how could she have observed me doing such a thing.”

In February, Mr Fewster appealed the decision made by a health care professional that he did not have limited capability for work.

But in a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Mr Fewster was told the decision had been changed.

It came after Mr Fewster staged a peaceful protest outside the assessment centre at Park Towers.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Mr Fewster. “My benefit will be restored, others have been let down by the system.

“It’s the hundreds if not thousands of others who have not had a fair and honest assessment that I want to help.

“I want to show the system is wrong.

“It’s a stressful process having to appeal and it’s something some people struggle with.

“If they have made an assessment which proved to be false , they should be held accountable for that.”

The DWP has apologised to Mr Fewster about his experience with his assessment and benefits.