Assessment disgrace: ‘Fit for work’ man dies before ESA appeal can be heard

Disability benefit assessors have been widely criticised for deciding wrongly that people are ‘fit to work’. The situation is a disgrace, the criticism is well deserved.

There have been a number of examples, but none more tragic than the case of Phillip Balderson. He had terminal cancer, but received a Department for Work Pensions (DWP) ‘fit for work’ assessment in February. It meant he no longer qualified for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) that he had received previously. The decision was a disgrace – and he died less than four months later.


Phillip Balderson was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in 2013 (Image:

Phillip didn’t live long enough to see his appeal through but this Thursday the Baldersons are taking his challenge to a tribunal. I, for one, wish his family every success.

The full story, written by John Jeffrey, appeared on Mirror Online. It read:

Cancer patient dies before he could appeal the DWP ruling that he was ‘fit to work’

Phillip Balderson’s heartbroken family will now challenge that decision at a tribunal after he battled oesophageal cancer, psoriatic arthritis, anxiety, OCD and mental health problems.

A cancer patient died before he was able to appeal a Department for Work Pensions (DWP) ruling that he was “fit to work”.

Phillip Balderson’s heartbroken family will now challenge that decision at a tribunal.

The 46-year-old had worked at a Lake District hotel, but was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer in 2013.

He also struggled with psoriatic arthritis , anxiety, OCD and a number of mental health problems.

Despite his difficulties, the DWP summoned him to a health assessment in February 2017 and ruled he was no longer eligible for Employment [and] Support Allowance.

They told him he had to look for work.

Mr Balderson, originally from Burnley, Lancashire, began appealing the decision.

But sadly died on June 5 before he could see the process through.

His daughter Chloe Balderson, 23, said: “He had terminal cancer and they were trying to send him to work. The people at the job centre were disgusted.”

The family, supported by Citizens Advice in Windermere, will be attending a work capability appeal to overturn the decision at South Cumbria Magistrates’ Court, in Barrow, on Thursday, December 14.

If it rules in their favour, any benefit payments will go towards the funeral.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Balderson’s family at this time.

“We are contacting Mr Balderson’s next of kin to ensure they’re paid any benefits owed at the time of his death.

“The amount paid will be dependent on the result of the Work Capability appeal that is currently at tribunal.”

Terrible the way they treat people

Mr Balderson’s partner Rachel Stockley, 49, said: “He was getting Employment [and] Support Allowance, that was all fine, but then his dad died and his mental health got worse.

“Phillip just went downhill from there.

“Then he got a letter to say he had to go for an assessment and he was worried.

“He was being judged by someone who was meeting him for the first time and that was that.

“He was complaining about pains in his liver before he had to go to his job centre appointment, and got worse before his assessment.

“I’m doing this for Phillip really because he was gutted.

“I think it’s disgusting, it’s terrible the way they treat people.”

The family, who live at Maychells Orchard in Allithwaite, Cumbria, have suffered a number of setbacks as Miss Stockley was also diagnosed with cancer back in 2010.

She said her partner of 25 years never talked about his diagnosis and was “frightened” by it.

“He loved the quiet and loved walking, even when he was really ill we’d take him driving and he’d fall asleep in the car.

“The authorities need to show more concern towards people’s needs and not judge them by how they look but you see it all the time.

“You just can’t prepare yourself for it, even though you know it’s going to happen, it’s no different from someone dying suddenly,” she said.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


One thought on “Assessment disgrace: ‘Fit for work’ man dies before ESA appeal can be heard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s