Story by Alice Kirby | Photo by Fran Belbin
Disabled people across the area have been losing vital support as a part of controversial welfare reforms. The government’s restructure of social security is having a significant impact on our area as Burngreave residents are more likely to be claiming disability benefits. This is due to health inequalities across the city and the relationship between poverty and disability.
A lady from the Wensley area, who has debilitating physical and mental illnesses, has been one of many who has lost her benefits. She had received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to pay for her disability-related expenses, for over twenty years and was granted a lifetime award.
She recently had to apply to its replacement benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Due to an error on the part of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), she did not receive a PIP assessment and therefore will not receive the new benefit. Her Motability car has been taken away and her daughter can no longer claim Carers Allowance despite being her mother’s full time carer.
The 68-year-old relied on her car as she is unable to use public transport, and without the benefit she will no longer be able to afford taxis. She told me that she will now be housebound and her health has suffered as a result. She will now have to go to a tribunal to defend her right to an assessment. She said:
“It’s destroyed my life. It’s taking me back where I don’t want to go. I’m having anxiety attacks, seizures, angina, and depression all because of this stress.”
Elsewhere in Burngreave advocates have reported that their clients, who are unable to travel due to their
disabilities, are being sent to assessments as far away as Leeds despite local centres being available. They also told us that the PIP process is too complicated and many people cannot understand it. As one local disabled woman told the Messenger:
“We shouldn’t have to jump through these hoops. The constant stress makes many conditions worse.”
Government statistics show that 25% of people who were taken off DLA were not awarded PIP, and 23% saw a decrease in the support they received. As a result of these cuts, 900 people are losing their Motability vehicles every week. However, two thirds of PIP decisions are overturned when they are appealed and people are then able to reapply to the Motability scheme.
Cuts to local advice and support services have also meant that organisations are struggling to cope with the demand from people who require help to navigate the PIP process. Disability Sheffield told us they are inundated with calls from disabled people and carers who are fearful about the impact of the changeover from DLA to PIP.
If you would like assistance with making a claim, or help to appeal a decision, call Citizens Advice on 0344 4 113 111. For information and guidance on making a PIP claim, please visit disabilityrightsuk.org.
The Motability charity is offering a package of support for people who are having their adapted cars taken away. You can find out about this by calling 0300 456 4566, or by visiting the website at motability.org.uk/pip-transitionalsupport.