A disabled gran with ten grandchildren says she has been left “virtually housebound” and struggles to socialise with family and friends after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) cut her vital disability payments.
Janet Williams, 59, had been receiving £148.85 per week in DIsability Living Allowance (DLA) payments before she was reassessed for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). PIP is gradually replacing DLA for all disabled adults of working age.
The Bristol Post reports that, following the assessment, the DWP cruelly decided to cut her weekly payments to just £82 a week, meaning Janet was also forced to give up her mobility car that helped her to get around and live independently.
Janet, who lives in Bristol, suffers from Fibromyalgia and a number of other debilitating medical conditions including severe arthritis, anxiety and depression.
Janet said: “My left leg is two inches shorter than my right because of three operations which weren’t successful. Walking absolutely kills me.
“I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I have a swollen spine, feet and knees. I’m on 30 tablets a day. I also have anxiety, depression and stress.
“I have all the same conditions I did when I was previously assessed by the DWP in 2007. The only difference is they’ve all got worse.”
Janet was assessed for PIP at her home in July 2019 and told by the assessor that she shouldn’t have any problems with her benefits.
“She got a typewriter out and asked how things were affecting me”, she said.
“The woman said, ‘I’m not going to physically examine you because I can see you’re in pain.’
“I told her I felt worse than ever before. Before she left, she told me, ‘I don’t think you’ll have any problems with your benefits.’
“Then I got a letter through the door saying they weren’t letting me have the same rate. There was no explanation.”
Janet added: “I was disgusted that they’ve been paying it to me since 2007 and all of a sudden I’m meant to be miraculously OK?”
Janet appealed against the DWP’s decision and her case was taken to a social security tribunal, who sadly rejected the appeal and upheld the original decision to reduce her weekly benefit entitlement.
Unable to afford legal representation, Janet was forced to represent herself at the hearing.
“It was awful”, said Janet.
“I felt like I was on trial for murdering someone. It felt as if no one cared about anything I was saying.
“This result has caused me to have anxiety about how I’m going to cope paying my bills and my normal day-to-day living.
“I no longer can afford to do things like I used to. I have now isolated myself from the rest of the world because of this. I no longer feel like myself.
“I now push people away because I just can’t be bothered to interact with friends and family. As a result, my family have became distant, upset and worried.”
Janet’s daughter Lucy said the tribunal treated her mother more like a criminal than a disabled person with genuine needs.
“I have never seen anything like it in my life and I’ve been in a courtroom while someone was on trial for criminal things,” she said.
“This person was never treated like my mother was at her tribunal.”
Janet also claims that the woman who assessed her for PIP provided false and misleading statements to the tribunal panel, which included a representative for the DWP.
“She said I had refused to be examined, even though at the time she said she wasn’t going to because I was in pain.
“I told the court, ‘Why would I refuse to let her examine me? I needed my money back.’
“The woman also said I had told her during my assessment that I could walk a mile to my GP surgery from my house. The truth was she had never even asked me about that.”
Janet also claims that the DWP’s representative said it was too “dangerous” for Janet to drive her mobility car because of her medical conditions.
She replied: “The DVLA is aware of my ailments and allows me to drive.”
Janet added: “I can only drive a mobility car because the driver’s seat can swivel and my legs don’t have to bend.
“I can’t sit in the passenger seat of a normal car either, because my legs would bend, so the only way I can get out of the house is on my mobility scooter, but the weather is often not good enough.
“It’s so difficult for me to get out and do shopping or go to doctor’s appointments.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring that disabled people get all the support they are entitled to.
“An independent tribunal upheld our decision on Mrs Williams’ PIP claim, which was made taking into account all of the medical information provided.”