A BLIND man who was told he was fit to work and had his benefits axed took on the government and won.

Tony Harris, 52, of Cwmcarn said it was like a “kick in the teeth” when a reassessment by the Department of Work and Pensions declared him as being fit to work and his incapacity benefit was stopped.

Mr Harris has been registered blind since he was 16, has no peripheral sight and relies on a guide dog.

He was also diagnosed last summer with rheumatoid arthritis, which affects most of his joints.

An independent tribunal was held on Tuesday at Newport’s Columbus House in Langstone Business Park, where Mr Harris gave evidence.

His appeal was upheld and the incapacity benefit was reinstated and backdated to the date of the original decision in December after the panel asked him a series of questions about his vision.

He said: “When I had the letter I felt like giving up and I’ve never been like that in my life. I’ve achieved a lot of things despite my sight disability.”

Mr Harris, who worked in a telecoms factory for 21 years before retiring on medical grounds, had to then live on his work pension and disability living allowance.

He said: “There are people out there on £30,000 benefits.

I was on £200 a fortnight and paid full council tax and water. It’s not as if I haven’t worked. It was a big, big shock.”

Mr Harris sought help from the charity Sight Support and appealed against the decision.

He said: “I know other visually impaired people who haven’t got it in them to fight and they let it happen, and so I have done it for those people as well.” Mr Harris told the Argus it had been a “very traumatic”

experience and that he had been under a lot of pressure, with many sleepless nights.

He said: “I’m pleased with the decision and I’m very upset that they’ve put me through this.”

DWP got it wrong

THIS newspaper is fully supportive of the government’s crackdown on benefits cheats.

We also support moves to get people off incapacity benefit and back to work if they are capable of doing so. But we do not back the kind of draconian rulings that rob someone like Tony Harris of benefits.

Mr Harris has been registered blind since he was 16 and uses a guide dog. Yet he has worked for most of his life before being forced to retire on medical grounds.

The former telecoms worker received £200 a fortnight in benefits.

Yet at the end of last year the government declared him fit to work and stopped his payouts.

The 52-year-old did not take the decision lying down and, as we reveal today, has now won an appeal against the decision.

An independent tribunal ruled in his favour and reinstated his benefits. The panel also ordered that his benefits be backdated to last December.

We are delighted for Mr Harris, but we question the wisdom of the Department for Work and Pensions in this case.

There are plenty of workshy scroungers who are undeserving of the benefits they receive. Mr Harris is clearly not one of them.

So was he just an easy target for the government? We would like to know.