Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t
A cardiac patient who was declared fit for work by benefits assessors suffered a third heart attack just three hours into a new job.
Michael Bispham, 44, was told he was well enough to work again, despite 11 letters from consultants and other medics saying he wasn’t.
He was refused ESA (employment support allowance) after scoring zero points.
Michael had already suffered two heart attacks, and he collapsed with a third on the day he started work as a delivery driver in Barrow, Cumbria.
His plight has echoes of the Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’, in which a heart patient battles the benefits system.
Michael, of Dalton, Cumbria, was fitted with a cardiac shock device before he started work on February 13.
To add insult to injury, news that his employment and support allowance assessment was being reversed on appeal arrived as he lay in a ward at Furness General Hospital, awaiting transfer to the region’s cardiac centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Now, his wife Emily has spoken of the double trauma of helping Michael in his recovery while fighting the “horrendous and unfair” benefits system she claims is designed to make honest people feel “worthless”.
Emily, 38, said: “My husband scored zero points when he was assessed for employment support allowance.
“He’d already had two heart attacks. That should have been it.
“We knew he was too poorly, we submitted 11 letters about his condition from consultants and the hospital, but they declared him fit to work.
“It nearly killed him. I’m so angry about it.
“Just when we needed help and support, we had to navigate the system with pages of forms.
“They stopped any money because he was no longer able to job seek and we were told to start from the beginning and apply again for the ESA he’d been turned down for in the first place.
“We had nothing for three weeks at what was the worst time of our lives. It was so difficult.”
Mrs Bispham, a former greeter at a Barrow supermarket, was forced to stop work herself last year after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
She hopes to return to work as soon as she is well again.
She said: “We were just normal people with jobs. We’ve got a mortgage. This could happen to anyone. But the way you are treated by the government is appalling.
“Basically, it’s a case of guilty until proven innocent at these assessments. You are there to prove you’re not making it up.
A DWP spokesperson said: “The decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment, including all available evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.
“Anyone who disagrees with the outcome of their assessment can appeal.”