Paralysed Sunderland miner's fury after being forced to undergo reassessment for benefits

A former miner left paralysed in a pit tragedy almost 25 years ago says it is 'disgraceful' he was forced to reapply for his benefit payments.

Tuesday, 20th December 2016, 1:02 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:01 pm
Jeff Branson, who was left disabled after a train derailed at Wearmouth Colliery 25-years-ago.

Jeff Branson and a workmate were left in a wheelchair after suffering life-changing injuries during a shift at Wearmouth Colliery in February 1992 when an underground train derailed, trapping them against a tunnel roof and killing two other men.

Furious Durham Miners’ Association leaders said “the spirit of Scrooge lives on in the corridors of power” after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) told the 59-year-old and his colleague that they would have to reapply for their payments.

Wearmouth Colliery.

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Although Jeff, of Castletown, has been passed to receive the payments via Employment Support Allowance, he said the stress caused by the process has caused him a huge amount of concern and has branded the DWP’s move over his Personal Independence Payments (PIP) an “embarrassment.”

Jeff, who was left with fractures to his ribs and pelvis as well as a severed spine in the crash, said: “I’m worse now than I have ever been.

“I have terrible difficulties transferring from one place to another and trouble with my shoulders.

“I think what’s happened is disgraceful.

DMA secretary Alan Cummings.

“I was going to work when this happened, that’s all, and I can’t understand why they did this.

“I’ve had depression and when they came out, it took them four weeks, so I had anxiety and panic attacks, which didn’t help.

“It’s quite obvious I’m never going to work again.”

Jeff’s former colleague is still due to undergo his reassessment

Wearmouth Colliery.

DMA secretary Alan Cummings, said the DWP is denying vulnerable people payments by forcing them into a “labyrinth of form filling.”

“It is unbelievable that people who have given their lives and health to industry are treated in this way,” he added.

“The DWP is acting with Dickensian brutality and a meanness which would make Scrooge proud.

“This is shameful from a government which claims it would not hound and pursue people who genuinely could not work.

DMA secretary Alan Cummings.

“The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damien Green gave this pledge earlier this year.

“He clearly has not checked that his department is carrying out his wishes.

“He should be ashamed of himself, ” said Mr Cummings.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Assessments are important to help ensure people get the level of support that they need, rather than just writing them off to a life on benefits as happened in the past.“We continue to spend around £50 billion a year to support sick and disabled people.”

The department has said unlike the Disability Living Allowance, PIP is a dynamic benefit that is able to adjust support in line with the claimant’s needs.

If someone’s condition worsens – or indeed improves - it says it needs to ensure they are still receiving the right support.