THE Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of denying benefits to workers who suffer from a crippling disease linked to the use of vibrating tools, as part of an effort to save the government money.

In May 2014, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) – an independent statutory body advising the government on which medical conditions should be added to the list of prescribed diseases; those deemed to arise from their occupation and which will entitle them to benefits – recommended that those suffering from Dupuytren’s contracture should receive industrial injuries benefit.

However, thousands of Scots are still waiting for payments and each has already lost out on around £3,500.

Bruce Shields, a lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, accused the UK Government of delaying introducing the new legislation to save money.

He said it wasn’t unusual for the government to hold back on disability benefits, as it took 18 months for the legislation relating to osteoarthritis of the knee to be enacted, and many miners died waiting.

Shields said: “I cannot think of another condition that has taken so long for the DWP to implement.

“It is far from difficult to do because the IIAC told the UK Government precisely how to do it. It beggars belief why it has taken two years.

“It was back in May 2014 when the IIAC recommended to the Secretary of State that it should be added, so we are now two years down the line and there is still nothing happening.

“You are now looking at individuals losing out on something like £3,500 in benefit during that period.

“These are people who are have a fairly significant disability and probably will need, or have had, surgery as well.”

He described the delay as “scandalous”.

Shields added: “I have had about 30 to 40 people contact me about Dupuytren’s and I have kept in touch with them to let them know I don’t know why it is taking so long. These people need the money for survival. I know why they are dragging their heels – it’s to save that £3,500 multiplied by potentially two million people a year.

“Right now, the Health and Safety Executive estimates that about five million people are using vibrating tools.

“They reckon about two million of those are at risk of developing some kind of injury.

“Then if you think historically how many people in mining, shipbuilding, heavy engineering have used vibrating tools in the past, the numbers are potentially much greater.

“To save some money the DWP is just hoping these people will just die off.”

He urged the new Secretary of State for the DWP, Stephen Crabb, who took over from Iain Duncan Smith after he quit last month, to take the matter more seriously.

“We urge the new DWP Secretary of State to get this sorted urgently. It is his responsibility.

“Westminster should have had this in place by now,” added Shields.

Retired miner Alex Bennett was diagnosed with Dupuytren’s contracture in the mid-1990s and both his hands are affected by the disease, leaving them deformed. Bennett, 68, who lives near Monktonhall pit in Danderhall, Dalkeith, was a miner from 1962 until 1997, and worked with heavy vibrating machines for much of that time.

He is one of the victims who could likely claim industrial injuries benefit if Dupuytren’s contracture was listed among prescribed conditions, but he is among thousands still waiting for news.

Alex said: “Every month that goes by people are losing out on benefits and it is just not on.”

He added: “Everyone is frustrated and can’t understand why still nothing has happened. It is ridiculous it is taking this long.

“It took them long enough to decide that this condition could be caused by using vibrating tools and we are still waiting for the UK Government to add it to the list of industrial injuries.”

A DWP spokesman said: “The recommendation of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council about

Dupuytren’s Contracture is still under consideration and it is expected that a decision will be made shortly.”