A BUILDER who was left crippled following an operation on his spine has had his disability benefits stopped – because his wife works.
Timothy Howle, who spent 30 years as a self-employed bricklayer, has not been able to work following an operation on his spine in 2010.
ANGER: Timothy Howle and his wife Susan. Picture: Wesley Webster
The 63-year-old, who is in constant pain and can’t walk without the aid of crutches, accepted the offer of an automatic car instead of disability living allowance, so he could retain some independence.
And up until April 30, Mr Howle, of Sorrento Grove, Meir Hay, was getting £94 each week in employment support allowance.
But that benefit has now been stopped because his wife Susan works full-time at Portmeirion as an enamel tester, bringing home £227 a week, which is now the couple’s sole income.
Mrs Howle, aged 51, said: “Our outgoing bills are £200 a week, before we have bought any food.
“We are really struggling. We have got a mortgage to pay. We are ordinary working-class people. Tim has worked all his life, up until the operation.
“It is as if we are being punished because I work.”
Mr Howle said since the operation he was numb from the waist down on his left side.
He added: I’ve got peripheral neuropathy in my left foot, which has left me with no strength in it and that has now crept into my right foot.
“The pain is in the nerves, it’s a bit like being an amputee. I’m constantly in pain. It gets that bad that I suffer from anxiety attacks. I can only be on my legs for so long before I have to get in a wheelchair. It’s like having a prison sentence.
“I worked in a garage, then at Michelin, before working for myself as a bricklayer for 30 years. In the past few years work dried up so I worked for agencies.”
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) now expects Mr Howle to find a job.
A spokesman said Government changes, which came into effect at the start of this month, mean that contribution-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is only available to people who could be expected to look for work for a maximum of 12 months.
After that period, people can claim income-related ESA if their partner worked for less than 24 hours a week.
The DWP spokesman added: “The welfare system must support those with the most need – those who are too sick or disabled to work and those who do not have any other means of financial support.
“ESA for people who could be expected to get back into work, was never intended to be a long-term benefit.
“The time limit of one year strikes the best balance between recognising that some people need extra help to enter the workplace and that the taxpayer cannot afford to support people indefinitely who could return to employment.”
Mr and Mrs Howle, who have both been married previously and have one son together and another four children between them, are appealing against the DWP decision to take away their benefits and a hearing will be held later this month.