Northern Ireland

Tyrone man told to work in wheelchair with broken leg

A County Tyrone spray painter has described how he was told by a benefits assessor to continue working in a wheelchair after a serious leg break.

Paddy Coyle, from Newtownstewart, shattered his leg in a fall off a ladder.

The 47-year-old spent two weeks in hospital, had two operations and 19 pins fitted into his leg.

But he was told he was no longer entitled to his benefits and should return to work.

The case has now been resolved, but only after two tribunals and Mr Coyle's local newspaper highlighted the case.

He hurt himself after a fall at home in February and had to wear a metal cage around his leg until July.

During that time Mr Coyle was entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of about £65 a week because he could not work.

But following an appointment with a benefits assessor in Omagh he was told he could return to work and use a wheelchair.

Mr Coyle was shocked to be told to go back to work before he had fully healed.

"The injury that I sustained - it was visible. You could see it, it wasn't as if it was hidden or a mental issue.

"You could actually physically see the evidence in font of you. I thought it was only a matter of going, in taking a look at it.

"Common sense would have seen you could not have walked with this injury. There was no possible way."

After an appeal and two further hearings Mr Coyle had his benefits returned and backdated in full by the Department for Social Development.

The department said: "We cannot comment on individual cases, however, we have been in touch with the customer about this issue.

"All Employment and Support Allowance customers are subject to the Work Capability Assessment process.

"It was developed in consultation with medical experts and a range of other customer representative groups to ensure that it is an accurate assessment of an individual's capability for work.

"The assessment looks at the functional effects of an individual's condition, rather than the condition itself."