A MAN who suffers from severe back problems due to work accidents, claims his benefits have been completely stopped, leaving him penniless.

Mark Rogerson said he was taken off Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) without warning in March and switched onto Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), despite having not worked since last June following a serious back injury.

However, he claims since the switch he has only received one weekly payment of £73.10 and an emergency payment of around £53 – and has now been told his account has been frozen.

The 57-year-old, from Worcester, said his injury has left him “incapacitated” and in “crippling agony” and unable to continue working as a stagehand at Malvern Theatres on a zero hour contract.

Last summer he had lifted a heavy object which triggered a back injury he’d suffered in 1999, which had required major surgery.

“They removed the top half of my pelvis and welded vertebrae together. My back is a hotchpotch of welded sea coral and bone,” he said.

He is hoping to have an epidural at Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, which he says has helped his back problems in the past and allowed him to get back to work.

However, in the meantime, he is battling with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over his benefits, while living at his girlfriend’s house.

“If it wasn’t for my girlfriend and mother and a few friends from where I worked, I would be in the gutter,” he said.

He said he has been told he is no longer eligible for ESA, after he passed a medical assessment at the job centre on Farrier Street, though claims he was only asked to raise his arms.

Mr Rogerson said he has now been told he is eligible to do one hour of work a day, five days a week.

He said he has provided sick notes from his doctor, showing he is unfit to work, which he fears is the reason why his account has been frozen.

He said there appears to be a lack of communication with those processing his claims and appeals, resulting in his account being frozen.

“The number of contradicting letters I get, often in the same post. They tell me, ‘we need sick notes’ and I’ve told them I handed them in personally to the job centre. I’ve sent them first class to the DWP.

He said: “I’ve only ever received one payment because nobody seems to communicate with each other.

“They said, ‘we’ve seen you’ve changed your benefits from ESA to JSA and your accounts now been frozen’. But I’ve told them I didn’t change it and it’s been frozen because of them.

“I’ve spent 50 hours on the phone and it kills my back sitting up right. Usually, I have to rest my head on the table and sling the receiver around my neck.”

He said at one stage he was told because his arms work, he should get a wheelchair “and get back to normal”.

“I thought it was one of my mates winding me up at first,” he said, of the phone call.

Mr Rogerson said he is desperate to recover from his back problems and get back to work, having worked since he was 10 years old when he got his first job in a stable.

Even after undergoing chemotherapy for liver disease 18 months ago, he was back working at Malvern Theatres within two months and didn’t claim for any benefits during his recovery period.

Though he has been told by doctors, during regular trips to the hospital, which he has to get the bus for as he can’t drive – surgeons “won’t operate again on the same operation site because it’s a mess – they don’t want to go drilling around there”.

“It just needs a hammer and chisel and start again,” he said. “But I’m not a medical person.”

Mum June Rogerson said it is “soul destroying” for her son to be stuck in the house without money and unable to work.

“He’s got agony, stress and trauma, due to what he's been put through,” she said. “It’s a scandal waiting to erupt. I am so angry about it.

“He has always worked really hard, but now he’s being treated like a criminal."

A DWP spokesperson said: "We’ve apologised to Mr Rogerson for the error made and confirmed that the outstanding benefit payment has been paid.

"Decisions for ESA are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

"Anyone who disagrees with a decision has the right to appeal."