An Erith man with a "crumbling spine" has overturned a government ruling over whether he is fit for work.

On Thursday (Jan 22) a tribunal upheld Simon Tupper’s claim that agonising spinal problems mean he is unfit for work, contrary to the government’s insistence he attend interviews.

Mr Tupper’s family paid tribute to Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce who supported their campaign to challenge the government’s decision.

News Shopper revealed last September how Mr 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 has to help him in their home in West Street, 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.

Despite this, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had previously insisted he be put in the work-related activity group which meant he had to attend job interviews and courses or lose his benefits.

The tribunal has now decided he be placed in the support group, which is for people who are severely disabled, and so he does not need to seek employment.

His partner, Gina Nash, 30, told News Shopper: "It was such good news that they upheld our appeal and that Simon will now be put on the support group.

Ms Pearce said: “DWP should be getting it right first time.

“Too many vulnerable people are forced to go to a tribunal with all the stress and delay involved.

"We are over the moon with relief and also want to thank Teresa Pearce for her support."

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce

News Shopper: MP Teresa Pearce

A DWP spokeswoman said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough independent assessment, and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence provided to us by the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.

"Appeals are being upheld in just 12 per cent of all claims and that is usually because additional evidence has been submitted that was not provided during the initial assessment.”

'Staggering' delays

The MP is campaigning for other disabled people in Erith and Thamesmead by arranging a parliamentary debate on disability-related benefit Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

PIP is replacing Disability Living Allowance and provides financial support to help people with disabilities and long term health conditions remain independent.

Ms Pearce cited DWP’s latest official statistics which revealed out of 669,200 claims for PIP submitted since the launch of the scheme in April 2013, only 382,000 decisions or clearances had been made. 

She spoke of one of her constituents, whose claim had been closed down altogether because DWP was calling an incorrect telephone number.

She said: "The number of claimants affected by the delays is staggering. 

"The failures are causing a great deal of unnecessary stress to thousands of people, and this cannot continue. 

"I am contacted regularly by constituents who have either not been informed about the progress of their claim, or have been waiting six months to a year to receive a home assessment. It is unacceptable."