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A grandfather who had fought a “cruel and lengthy” battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over sickness benefit entitlements has finally had his benefits reinstated,.. but not before severe health issues resulted in his tragic death.

Jeff Hayward died in June 2018 having spent 18 months fighting for the benefits he was rightly enititled to after the DWP ruled he was “fit for work”, despite providing evidence showing he was incapable of doing so.

Mr Hayward, 52, who died from a heart atttack, had worked for all of his life before his deteriotaing health forced him to apply for benefits for the first time in his life.

He applied for Employment and Support Allowance in 2016 but was awarded zero points by a benefits assessor even though he had developed cellulitis in his legs and huge ulcers, This Is Lancashire reports.

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His case has been likened to the film by Ken Loach, I, Daniel Blake, which won the highly acclaimed Palme d’Or award.

Mr Hayward’s daughter Holly believed that the evidence provided his GP would be be enough to secure benefits, but much to her surprise her father’s claim was rejected following a medical assessment.

Miss Hayward, 29, said: “When he went to claim he had to be medically assessed, and they could see he was in pain.

“When the DWP refused him benefits, even though his GP said he was unfit to work, he felt worthless.

“He was someone who really needed help and they wouldn’t give it to him.”

A subsequent appeal failed, depite supporting evidence from his GP, and Mr Hayward was plunged into financial distress.

His family believe the cruel decision resulted in a further deteriation in his health, eventually leading to a heart attack that took his life.

Miss Hayward added: “My dad was a really outgoing family man, a loving grandfather to my daughter, Ivy, two.

“He worked all his life and had never once claimed benefits.

“When he got ill and had to stop work it changed him, he became depressed and worried about paying the mortgage.

“He had cellulitis in his legs and developed huge ulcers that turned into septic holes. The whole thing made him really ill and unable to walk very far.

“He had to go and have his bandages changed at the hospital three times a week, which could take quite a long time, but even if he could’ve worked, what sort of employer would let someone take that amount of time off work?

“He tried to appeal the case but the stress of it, the fact it was refused the first time, on top of his illness, it made him worse.

“The whole experience was awful. Dad died of heart complications but I believe they were made worse by the stress of the benefits system.”

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Following her father’s death, Miss Hayward turned to the Citizens Advice Bureau, who agreed to take up the case.

Manager of Ribble Valley CAB, Katy Marshall, said: “Holly continued with her dad’s appeal and on January 10 this year his family were told by a new tribunal hearing panel that the decision had been reversed.

“Based on the same medical evidence provided to them by his GP two years and three months earlier, they found he was entitled to the highest rate of benefit.

“He would have been awarded ESA Support Group benefit, for people who are not capable of even seeking to return to work.

“For him to go from zero points to 15, which is the highest number of points on the benefit scale seems ridiculous.

“This is in many ways a real-life I, Daniel Blake case.”

It was found that Mr Hayward was owed £8,887 in backpayments, which his family say would have made a huge difference to his life.

Miss Hayward said: “The process was so slow, slower that it should’ve been for someone who needed help.

“I think if he had had the benefit from the start, he might still be with us.

“He was genuinely poorly, but they made my dad feel that he was worthless.”

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Mrs Marshall added: “We are often concerned about the quality of the DWP medical assessments which carry so much weight.

“You have to apply for a review called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before you can appeal a decision.

“The reviews rarely change the decision and we feel they are a waste of time, only making the process is difficult and slow.

“The benefits system can have a dreadful impact upon people who are entitled to support.

“People deserve a fair system that allows them some dignity.

“From what we saw, Jeff Hayward’s suffering was increased by the DWP system.

“It needs improvement. At present it is cruel as Mr Hayward’s family have said.”