A GOVERNMENT department has apologised to a Darlington man after a “mistake” left him being owed more than £2,500 in incapacity benefit.

Gary Dawson, 52, of Egglestone View had been claiming £120 a month incapacity benefit since a fall at work in 2001 damaged his back and led to the spinal problem spondylosis.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped the benefit after a medical examination in February 2011 stated Mr Dawson was fit to work.

But he appealed and a tribunal ruled in October this year that it should be reinstated and backdated for the 19-months the benefit wasn’t paid.

However, two months later Mr Dawson is still not receiving his weekly allowance, nor the backdated money owed – amounting to about £2,500 so far.

Mr Dawson said: “David Cameron wants to get people off benefits and into work and I think I have been an innocent victim of that.

“It is great to say ‘let’s get people off benefits who shouldn’t be on them’, but if you have a genuine claim, then benefits shouldn’t be taken from you.

“I am quite sure that I am not the only person in this situation, this won't be an isolated incident.”

Mr Dawson served in the army for 10-years after leaving school and spent the rest of his working life in manual labour, but has been reliant on benefits since contracting spondylosis.

His wife Linda, 52, a former Neighbourhood Watch leader for Stockton police, is also unable to work due to suffering from diabetic ulcers.

Although the couple have been receiving income support, Mrs Dawson said it has been a struggle living without the incapacity benefit her husband is entitled to.

“We have missed the money,” she said.

“Fortunately my parents - who are pensions and not well off – have given us bits and bobs.

“My mum would lend us anything we asked but you don’t want to do that, I like to pay my own way.”

When The Northern Echo contacted the DWP, a spokesman said: “It is difficult to say exactly what happened, but a mistake has been made and we apologise to Mr Dawson for that.

“The money has been credited to him and will be in his account by December 21.”