Sunderland dad ‘bullied’ into attending benefits interview only days after brain surgery for Parkinson's disease
A dad battling serious illness has told how he was “bullied” into attending a benefits interview only days after undergoing brain surgery.
Russ Bradford, who has had two eight inch probes inserted into his head as part of his treatment for Parkinson’s disease, feared his disability payments would be reduced or even stopped if he did not attend the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) sanctioned assessment.
Mr Bradford, who has fought the degenerative illness for eight years, insists he told the DWP about the planned surgery and its six-week estimated recovery period during previous correspondence more than a month before the operation date.
The father of two was then stunned to receive a letter – which arrived just days before he was admitted to hospital – instructing him to attend the Sunderland assessment.
The DWP has now issued an apology to him and confirmed that he should not have been asked to a meeting,
But Mr Bradford, 47, who lives near Houghton, said: “I feel stressed, angered, bullied and discriminated against by the way they have treated me.
“To get this letter just before going into hospital for extensive surgery only added to the worries I was going through.”
Partner Charlotte Allen, 53, who has battled the same illness for 16 years, added: “Why are they wasting time and money reassessing people with chronic debilitating illnesses with no known cure?”
While the letter gives people a number to ring to discuss potential issues, it also stresses in bold that “if you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected”.
A DWP spokesman confirmed that Mr Bradford’s Employment Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment benefits remained unaltered and added: “We have apologised to Mr Bradford as he should not have been asked to attend an assessment.”
Parkinson’s disease is a brain illness affecting speech and movement with no known cure. It affects around 145,000 nationwide.
Side effects include tiredness and Mr Bradford temporarily encountered mental health problems as he struggled to cope with his ordeal.
His illness forced him into claiming disability benefits after winding up his previously successful hot tub, underfloor heating and property maintenance businesses.
He said: “Here I was suddenly struggling at the age of 40 with something I thought was an old person’s illness.
“I would rather be working than claiming benefits. But my health changes so much that I never know when I am going to have good days and when I am suddenly going to have to sleep during the day.”
The four-hour deep brain stimulation (DBS) operation earlier this month at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) saw probes and wires inserted into Mr Bradford’s head to connect to a battery in his chest.
Current from the battery will stimulate his brain into communicating with parts of his body and hopefully aid his speech and movement.
Mother-of-one Ms Allen, who runs an insurance recruitment agency and has battled Parkinson’s for 16 years, said: “While there is no cure, DBS offers hope that people can continue to lead a meaningful life.”
The couple, who met while receiving support for their illnesses, are also co-founders of the Parkinson’s Concierge organisation and have had a short film made about their struggles.
Parkinson’s Concierge raises money to aid research into the disease and allows sufferers to exchange information for each other’s benefit.
Further details about its work is available at www.parkinsonsconcierge.com