Sunderland MP says 'flawed' benefits assessments leave claimants on 'brink of despair'

An MP has criticised “flawed and inadequate assessment processes” after a Parkinson’s disease battler felt “bullied” into a benefits interview only days after undergoing brain surgery.
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Russ Bradford, who has had two eight inch probes inserted into his head as part of his treatment for the incurable illness, feared his disability payments would be reduced or even stopped if he did not attend the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) sanctioned meeting.

The DWP has since phoned Mr Bradford, 47, who lives near Houghton, to apologise and confirmed in a statement that the request should not have been made.

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The dad of two, who had to wind down three businesses after he was diagnosed with the illness around eight years ago, has also had disagreements with the department over previous assessments and contacted constituency MP Bridget Phillipson for help with his dispute.

Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson

Ms Phillipson, the Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, who made inquiries with the DWP on his behalf, said: “I see far too many constituents on the brink of despair as a result of the DWP’s flawed and inadequate assessment processes.

“It’s not uncommon for me to see constituents waiting over a year just to receive a tribunal date or to hear from people who feel that their assessor didn’t understand their disability or health condition.

“Constituents shouldn’t have to go through years of assessments, tribunals and correspondence just to receive the support they deserve and it’s clear the system needs a complete overhaul.”

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Parkinson's disease is a brain illness affecting speech and movement with no known cure.

Mr Bradford had the probes inserted into his head on October 1 to connect with a battery in his chest to hopefully stimulate his brain into communicating with parts of his body.

Despite telling the DWP in previous correspondence about the operation and its six-week recovery time, he received a letter instructing him to attend an assessment on October 10.

He turned up only a week after leaving hospital out of fear his payments could be affected.

The DWP stressed that Mr Bradford’s benefits remained unaltered and added: “We have apologised to Mr Bradford as he should not have been asked to attend an assessment.”