'It's like a torment': Hundreds of Havering disabled people had their benefits stopped
PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:14 04 June 2018
Hundreds of people with disabilities in Havering lost their benefits when they were reassessed for a new government payment.
Since 2013 the government has been gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
These benefits help people pay for disability-related living costs, such as personal carers or mobility aids.
The criteria for PIP has become stricter, and claims are reassessed on a more regular basis.
The assessment process, which is carried out by private contractors such as Capita, came under fire after a 2017 review revealed that 65per cent of those who challenged the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) successfully had them overturned in court.
Teresa Munday, 57, from Chelsworth Drive in Harold Wood, has fibromyalgia, a long term condition which causes pain all over the body and fatigue. Teresa is also partially sighted.
She told the Recorder: “It gets so bad some days, I will come downstairs, do a little bit or work and then I would be so exhausted and would spend the rest of the day lying down again.
“On those days it feels like I’m not there, as if I’m in another world.”
Teresa has been on disability benefits since 1990 but in December 2017 she lost her allowance.
She was told that because her husband works more than 24 hours a week, she is not entitled to PIP.
“Everything has got on top of me. If they stop PIP it means I have got nothing coming in,” Teresa said.
“I just sometimes feel that I’m on my own. The process is like a torment.”
Lisa Louise, 44, from Reginald Road, Harold Wood has irritable bowel syndrome and a hole in her lung. These issues have led to several health problems, including a constant chest infection.
“I have been denied PIP twice. I cannot hold a job down and had to have regular time off due to several health problems,” said Lisa.
“I can’t get help with any other benefits. They say I have to live off my husband’s salary as he earns just over their threshold.
“I am my own person and I find this incredibly insulting.”
The stress of applying for PIP and sitting through the assessment interviews has prevented Lisa from applying again.
Another Havering resident who wished not to be named, said: “It’s disgusting how they treat people. The stress they cause people already dealing with difficult situations is awful.
“I changed from DLA to PIP in January and they awarded me the mobility but no care.
“I am epileptic and get no warning, so cannot safely carry out a lot of activities.
“I appealed and won but the stress of it all nearly gave me a breakdown.”
James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said: “It’s alarming that a quarter of DLA claimants have lost all support through the move to PIP.
“Scope analysis shows disabled people face extra costs of £570 a month on average.
“The hundreds of thousands of disabled people who have lost out on vital financial support didn’t suddenly see an end to these additional costs.”
Ann Reed, 52, from Harold Wood has seen her son, Alexander (Alex) Howes, 19, lose out on DLA when he was reassessed for PIP.
Alex, who has Type 1 diabetes, was receiving DLA from the age of eight to 18.
Speaking about some of the extra costs that come with her son’s condition, Ann explained that the sugar tax means they now spend more on products
that Alex needs when he is hypo - when his blood sugar is too low.
Ann said: “In the assessments they ask the same questions to everybody, irrespective of disability.
“Alex likes to drink Lucozade when he’s hypo, with the sugar tax means that he either has to drink double the amount or drink an alternative.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about how unfair the process is.”