A disabled man has accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of victimising him and ruining his life after it tried – and failed – to prosecute him for benefit fraud, despite letters from medical professionals confirming his serious medical conditions.
The case of Gary Moyse has shone a spotlight on DWP’s use of fraud investigators, and of secret filmed footage in cases where a claimant has a serious but fluctuating condition.
It comes as figures obtained by The Observer showed that more than 85 per cent of benefit fraud allegations made by the public to DWP over the last five years were false.
Moyse has chronic pain syndrome – following a car accident in December 2007 – as well as diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy, anxiety and depression, but was told by a diabetes consultant to stay as active as he could, however much pain it caused him.
He had been claiming disability living allowance (DLA), with higher rate mobility support and middle rate care.
But he claims that investigators working for an insurance company disputing the level of his claim for six-figure damages filmed him as he walked to his local high street – as he tried to follow his consultant’s advice to stay active – and then edited the footage to remove shots of him pausing, taking breaks, taking his medication, being assisted by friends, and falling over.
DVDs of this footage were later used by DWP to try to prove he was claiming DLA fraudulently.
The stress of the battle with DWP – which began in 2013 – has harmed his health even further, and last year he tried to take his own life. He is now recovering from a mini-stroke and a mild heart attack.
A consultant psychiatrist who saw him concluded in January 2015 that he had been “unfairly victimised”.
And Moyse says that two DWP investigators told him not to bother applying for personal independence payment (PIP) – which is replacing working-age DLA – and warned him that they would be watching him if he walked a single step outside his front door.
When he did apply for PIP, an Atos nurse who assessed him said he was entitled to the benefit, but her advice was ignored by the DWP decision-maker, the same civil servant who had dealt with the fraud allegations.
Moyse, a former treasurer for a multi-national oil company in Saudi Arabia, said: “I now get extreme anxiety.
“The only time I have been out of the house is to get out of taxis or a friend’s car and drive to the hospital or to the legal meetings.
“It’s pure victimisation. I am struggling to keep going against these tribunals.”
He is appealing through the tribunal system to overturn a ruling last August that he was not entitled to DLA and should pay back £20,000 in benefits to DWP.
The tribunal concluded that his “stated level of disability was lacking in credibility” and that he “suffers from no mental health disability”, despite the evidence of doctors and psychiatrists.
A consultant who examined Moyse for DWP and reported that he “walked slowly and stiffly with a right-sided crutch”, then saw the DVD of him walking more freely and concluded that he was “an unreliable witness”.
But Moyse points out that he never takes his medication when he is being examined for a DWP assessment, which explains why his movements were so different when he was seen by the consultant and the Atos nurse.
The tribunal ruling last August came even though, he claims, there were no witnesses at the hearing – including the two investigators – who he could question about the case against him.
The following month, a crown court judge directed the jury to find Moyse not guilty of misrepresenting his condition, after the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to produce the investigators who filmed the footage.
But when he applied for PIP, the DWP decision-maker rejected his claim, despite quoting in the decision document from letters from an occupational therapist and a diabetes consultant which backed up Moyse’s case.
The DWP decision-maker also suggested that Moyse’s “perseverance” with his claim and his insistence that he had been unfairly treated was “inconsistent with the anxious, depressed man featured in his claim”.
He also stated that DWP “dropped” the case against Moyse, when it was actually thrown out by the court.
Despite his PIP claim being rejected – it is currently going through the process of mandatory reconsideration – Moyse has been found not fit for work and is in the support group of the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance, while his local council in Great Yarmouth spent thousands of pounds installing a wet room in his home.
He has been struggling to survive on ESA, as his DLA was stopped in October 2013, which meant he also had his Motability vehicle taken away, while his partner is no longer able to claim carer’s allowance, even though she helps him get up, wash and dress every day.
Since he lost his Motability car three years ago, and moved in with his partner, he has tried to walk the 200 yards to the local shops several times, but has had to stop every few yards because of the pain, and then has to sleep on the sofa for the next few days because of the resulting pain and diabetes complications.
He said: “I have been struggling ever since. They are just trying everything they possibly can to break me.
“I have panic attacks when I see the postman coming, because you never know what the next thing is going to be. Whenever I see a brown envelope, I ask my partner to open it.
“They have totally ruined my life. The only reason I am holding out is that I don’t believe people with that sort of power should be able to treat innocent people the way they are treating me.
“I shudder to think of the other people they have done this to who have caved in.
“I can’t go out of the front door without stress and paranoia. I don’t see why the government should be allowed to do this to people.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “PIP is awarded on the basis of how a claimant’s condition affects them rather than on the condition itself, and decisions on entitlement are taken on the basis of all the evidence held.
“The Independent Appeals Service agreed Mr Moyse was not entitled to DLA and is required to pay back his overpayment.
“We have a duty to the taxpayer to ensure recovery of overpayments.”
She added: “The judge directed the jury to find the defendant not guilty because he was not prepared to grant an adjournment to deal with a technicality in the proceedings – not on the basis of the evidence.”
She confirmed that this technicality was that DWP was unable to produce the investigators to give evidence in court within 24 hours.