Yateley ballet dancer in benefit battle

Henry Perkins

A FORMER child ballet prodigy from Yateley is now battling the welfare system after injury left his career as a dancer hanging in the balance.

Henry Perkins, from Lawford Crescent, a graduate of the renowned Russian Bolshoi Ballet Academy, said he has been placed in an impossible position by job centre regulations which insist he is fit to work.

Henry, 20, hit national headlines five years ago after he became the first Brit to secure a place to study ballet at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and was even the subject of a BBC documentary.


After completing his studies and having spent four years in Russia, Henry looked set to make a start in his career with the Estonian National Ballet.

After suffering a serious injury to his back prior to a performance in Latvia in December last year, Henry was forced to return to the UK for specialist medical treatment, and has been told by doctors that the injury could potentially spell an early end to his career as a dancer.

Unable to dance, and with no British academic qualifications, Henry sought financial support through the Employment Support Allowance, which provides assistance to those unable to work due to injury or illness.

Following a medical assessment earlier this year however, he was told he was fit for work and that he would no longer be eligible for his current benefits, and would instead need to switch to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Henry, who is planning to take the matter to tribunal, said that although he sees his benefits as a short-term source of support, he feels that not enough consideration has been given to his circumstances.

Aware that the nature of his injury may ultimately require him to give up ballet, Henry is currently studying for A-levels in the hope that this will allow him to study Russian at university in the future.

Henry’s mother Sue said her son’s lack of qualifications meant he would only be considered suitable for manual labour jobs, something that would risk exacerbating his injury.

Henry said: “Most of the money I am using is going on petrol to get me to college and back.

I am in a much better position than many people physically and mentally, but in my profession you need to be at the top of your physical health and without qualifications it makes finding employment almost impossible.”

The family previously faced struggles regarding state benefits in 2007, when Mrs Perkins was advised that child allowance for Henry, who was studying in Moscow, would be withdrawn.

David Cameron, who was then leader of the opposition, invited the family to the House of Commons over the issue, which eventually saw the them retain their benefit.

Henry’s current plight saw the family once again write to Mr Cameron two months ago, with Mrs Perkins claiming she is yet to receive a reply.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions however said people suffering debilitating injury or illness would not be required to apply for manual labour jobs.

He said that while it was impossible to generalise about individual cases, there were a number of options open to someone in Mr Perkin’s position, added that switching to Job Seekers Allowance did not necessarily prevent people from studying, if it was decided that further education would help to improve a persons’ future job prospects.

He said: “We are reforming the welfare system to ensure no one is left trapped on benefits. If someone can no longer do the job they used to do, the work capability assessment looks at what other kinds of work they may be able to do.

“People who are too sick or disabled will receive our unconditional support and those who are able to work will get the help they need to find a new job. Anyone who disagrees with their assessment can appeal and present further evidence.”

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2 thoughts on “Yateley ballet dancer in benefit battle

  1. John McArdle says:

    He said: “We are reforming the welfare system to ensure no one is left trapped on benefits. If someone can no longer do the job they used to do, the work capability assessment looks at what other kinds of work they may be able to do.”

    I just can’t help seeing that the entire policy is DISCRIMINATORY.

    Has a full and proper Equality Impact Assessment ever been done on this policy?

    We all know that it is a fact that people with impairments are treated less favourably than others when they apply for jobs. Given that this is the case, disabled people are disproportionately affected by the cut to their income and stand considerably less chance of securing appropriate employment as a direct consequence of their disability.

    This would also include accessibility to buildings and offices which are still an enormous problem.

    Additionally – many disabled people are discriminated against by virtue of the simple fact of the complex and detailed forms they must fill in; a lack of understanding as to what they may require from their GP in terms of medical evidence and so on and outright incomprehension of their issues on the part of the DWP non-medically qualified decision makers.

    The WCA pointedly DOES NOT help disabled people back to work any more than it helps the abled unemployed back to work.

    It is what it is – a con trick and a cynical means to rob people of their lawful entitlement to state support.

  2. John says:

    “Henry cannot stand to work in a shop as suggested here; he also cannot walk far without extreme pain in his back, nor can he bend to lift things – he has suffered multiple disc prolapse.

    He also cannot sit for long in one position – in fact, lying down is the only pain free position! He is not trying to ‘scrounge’ benefits – in fact he is trying hard to find an alternative if he cannot get better for dance – he has no British educational qualifications like GCSE’s and the only skill other than dance is his near fluency in Russian.

    Unlike many youngsters who might have given up after devoting 14 years of their life to their future career, he has pulled himself back from the depression that he felt earlier in the year and is trying to achieve the necessary qualifications to be able to go to university and get a degree in Russian which would ensure him a job.

    In a year, he could be on a student loan. I would be interested to hear what the subscribers here who have condemmed him would suggest he could do right now to earn money if he cannot stand for long, cannot walk for long and cannot bend or twist his upper body in any way (and that on top of no skils other than Russian language and dancing which he cannot do).

    Henry also wants to highlight the shortconings in the new government medical assessment for disabilities to help all people in a similar situation to himself – tests like ‘can you pick up an empty cardboard box’.

    How many jobs involve just that – many disabled people, even those in a wheel chair, could pick up an empty cardboard box but couldn’t realistically be expected to do most jobs because of the underlying nature of their problems.

    The whole government assessment needs revisiting so that sensible tests are developed that are WORK RELATED. Until that happens, all disabled people are going to be discriminated against in the government’s new system.”

    ‘Toledo’, Yateley
    03/11/2011 at 13:03

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