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Havering couple's disability benefits to be cut after new PIP benefit assessment

PUBLISHED: 16:47 11 December 2015 | UPDATED: 16:47 11 December 2015

Rosemary and Brian Relf will lose £115.50 a week from December 23. Here pictured in 2013

Rosemary and Brian Relf will lose £115.50 a week from December 23. Here pictured in 2013

Archant

A woman whose disability leaves her in constant pain and barely able to walk is to lose her disability benefits as changes are introduced.

PIP in Havering

The Personal Independence Payment was rolled out in Havering in October and helps cover the extra cost of being disabled.

Havering Citizens Advice Bureau reports having had 154 enquiries about PIP and has helped to challenge a decision in 44 cases.

So far, Havering Council has not been notified of anyone having their benefits stopped but residents are still going through the assessment.

Chris Webley, from Havering Citizens Advice Bureau, argued the PIP test was “subjective” but said: “there is quite a high success rate at tribunals and we have taken quite a few clients in the past after they have been considered not entitled to the PIP.”

Figures released by the DWP show between April 2013 and July 2015, 76 per cent of claimants who were receiving the DLA and 49pc of new benefit claimants were awarded the PIP benefit.

According to the Office of National Statistics, Havering is estimated to have the fourth highest rates of serious physical disabilities among London boroughs, with about 1,396 people affected.

In 2012, Rosemary Relf, 56, was awarded “lifetime” Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), she is not entitled to financial aid.

Mrs Relf developed a thyroid problem which has left her with a weakened immune system, frequent loss of balance as well as difficulty walking.

Her husband Brian Relf quit his job as a bus driver five years ago to become her full-time carer.

“She can’t dress herself, she can’t cook, she struggles to go up the stairs, and she is in constant pain,” said Mr Relf, who added her condition had “deteriorated” in the past few years.

During the PIP assessment, Mrs Relf scored less than the eight point threshold to be entitled to the benefit, although the assessor “realised she had a disability or health condition”.

From December 23, the couple will lose £115.50 a week – £53 of Mrs Relf’s DLA and £62.50 from Mr Relf’s carer’s allowance. Eight weeks later, Mrs Relf’s disability top-up on her income support will also be scrapped.

The couple, who have already had to sell their car and two televisions to make ends meet, appealed to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Mr Relf said: “It is disgusting what they are doing to disabled people, they are treating them as second class citizens.

“I am not sitting back and taking it and I will be fighting not just for my wife but for all disabled people.”

A DWP spokeswoman said PIP was “a fairer benefit which ensures support targets those who need it most”.

Philip Connolly, policy manager at Disability Rights UK, said Mrs Relf’s case was not unusual and urged people to explore all appeal options.

He said: “When this benefit was first announced, they said 600,000 people would drop from the eligibility to save money.”

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell said DLA was “outdated” and had led “to hundreds of millions of pounds in underpayments and overpayments”.

Have you also been affected by the benefit change from the DLA to PIP? Contact Chloe Farand at chloe.farand@archant.co.uk.

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