An Erith woman has described her family’s "nightmare" as her bedbound husband is forced to attend job interviews despite the fact his spine is "crumbling".

Simon Tupper, 42, has degenerative disk disease, as well as a trapped nerve and a crushed nerve which leaves him in permanent agony. 

The former electrician normally only leaves his bed to use the toilet and his partner, Gina Nash, 30, has to help him in their home in West Street, Erith, as well as care for their two-year-old son.

His only hope of a cure is a 10-hour operation - involving a metal cage being inserted around his spine - which he is due to have in a few months but could leave him paralysed for life.

When he was assessed in June for Employment and Support Allowance the assessor for ATOS - the healthcare firm which judges whether benefit claimants are fit for work - allegedly refused to let him complete the physical tasks in case it caused him pain. 

However in July the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) told Mr Tupper and Ms Nash he is being put in the work-related activity group which means he must attend job interviews and courses or lose his benefits.

News Shopper:

Mother-of-three Ms Nash told News Shopper through her tears:  "The last two years have been a nightmare. Simon’s in agony all the time.

"He doesn’t have good days anymore. 

"My two-year-old, James, is very active and likes to jump on you and he doesn’t understand it hurts Simon, who will wince in pain.

"Apart from going to the toilet he’s in bed each day, every day, if he ever ventures to the shop it puts him in agony. I have to help him out of bed each time.

"I had my two other children living with us from my previous relationship but now they’ve had to move in with my ex-partner because we can’t cope. 

"We are a five minute walk from the town centre but if he tries that he’ll be exhausted for days. He’d only venture out once a week and had to use crutches but I won’t let him now.

"He went into in the Job Centre Lowfield Street, Darford for the work-focused interview, the ESA advisor took one look and said, ‘no you’re not fit for work.’

"He should have this operation in a few months but it will take three to six months to heal and he won’t be allowed out of bed.

"In June, when he had the assessment the ATOS woman wouldn’t even let him do the physical part of it because it would put him in too much pain. She said ‘I’m not putting you through this’.

"We explained about his condition which causes the discs in the spine to crumble and the last option is major surgery, a ten hour operation in which they will release the nerve, fuse his vertebrae together and put a metal cage around his spine. 

Ms Nash, who is pregnant, added: "This will take up to six months to heal but there is no guarantee it will work and we may have to cancel it because of the benefits situation."

Earlier this year the government confirmed it would end its contract with ATOS early following "significant quality failures" identified by DWP.

The couple have appealed to Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce for help and her caseworker is working with them to appeal the decision.

News Shopper: MP Teresa Pearce

Ms Pearce said: "I deal with numerous cases like this each month. I think most people would agree those who can work should work and those who cannot should be supported. 

"But the current system of testing people for their ability to work is failing day in, day out. 

"This chaos is costing taxpayers millions in assessments and tribunals and it is causing distress and anxiety for thousands of sick and disabled people." 

A DWP spokeswoman said: "A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided by the claimant. 

"Anyone who disagrees with their decision can ask for it to be reconsidered."