Woman wins £13k after battle to prove she was 'disabled enough' for benefits

<p>A severely autistic woman has been awarded a £13,000 payout after she won a lengthy battle to prove that she was &apos;disabled enough&apos; to qualify for PIP benefit payments.</p>
<p>Maureen Ringland, mum of six and granny to 11, says her final appeal only succeeded because of the love and determination of husband Alan and the support of her then MP Jess Phillips and her team.</p>
<p> &quot;It&apos;s been really tough,&quot; Alan told Birmingham Live , speaking on behalf of the couple. </p>
<p>&quot;This has gone on for two years. We have had to rely on friends and family to look after us really, loaning us money.</p>
<p>&quot;We nearly lost our car because we were struggling, and come close to getting our gas and electric cut off. It&apos;s been two years of financial meltdown.</p>
<p>&quot;We have been really struggling to make ends meet, as well as having the emotional anxiety of having to go to court and keep appealing.</p>
<p>&quot;The system is made as difficult as possible for people who are already struggling with their lives.&quot;</p>
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<p>The ordeal started two years ago, when the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was replaced with PIP, the Personal Independence Payment.</p>
<p>Maureen had been entitled to support for her disabilities all her adult life because of the ongoing challenges she faces, but when she was interviewed by a PIP assessment officer from Capita and her medical case reviewed, she was deemed to be fit for work.</p>
<p>Under the PIP assessment she was awarded zero points, meaning she lost her tranche of allowances in one go, while Alan&apos;s carer&apos;s allowance was also removed.</p>
<p>As a result of that ruling, the couple lost a daily care allowance of £83 a week and a mobility allowance of £58 a week, along with Alan&apos;s carer&apos;s allowance benefit of £66 per week.</p>
<p>Maureen has a diagnosis of severe autism and generalised anxiety disorder, alongside other health conditions including Reynaud&apos;s Disease and Hypohidrosis.</p>
<p>The reports of medics and psychiatrists were dismissed according to Alan, because his wife can at times appear very capable.</p>
<p>&quot;She is a people pleaser, she wants to make people happy, so if she is asked leading questions like &apos;you can do this can&apos;t you&apos; then she will say yes.</p>
<p>&quot;She was asked, for example, if she could manage money. To test this they asked her how much change she would get in a pound if something cost 50p.</p>
<p>&quot;Because she knew the answer was 50p, she was deemed capable of managing her finances and a household budget.</p>
<p>&quot;She can do an awful lot and is an amazing person, but she is not able to do basic tasks that keep her safe. The most straightforward tasks for other people cause her real problems.&quot;</p>
<p>He said: &quot;They messed up. But it has taken us two years to get to the stage where they recognise her needs.&quot;</p>
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<p>At a court hearing two weeks ago, Maureen was told she was, after all, entitled to enhanced contributions to her daily care and enhanced contributions for her mobility needs, restoring her full package of disability payments.</p>
<p>The court also ruled her claim should be backdated to the date it was taken off her, giving a payout of more than £13,000.</p>
<p>For Alan and Maureen it&apos;s a moment of sheer relief.</p>
<p>&quot;There are so many people like Maureen with hidden disabilities,&quot; said Alan. &quot;You look at her and she looks well, but her abilities are such that she cannot cope with simple daily tasks, she is very vulnerable.&quot;</p>
<p>Alan sought help from Jess Phillips, then the couple&apos;s MP, and her team, who have provided support ever since.</p>
<p>&quot;Jess and the team have been an amazing support, with us every step. The DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) and Capita who process the claims – and who originally ruled that Maureen did not qualify – really messed up and the impact on us was just awful.&quot;</p>
<p>He added: &quot;We can now pay back people who helped us out, and get back on an even keel.</p>
<p>&quot;But I know we are not alone. There are thousands just like us. I think they hope people will just give up.&quot;</p>
<p>Jess Phillips said she was thrilled that Alan and Maureen had finally got justice. One of the first things the couple did when their payment came through was stop by the former MP&apos;s constituency office to deliver a thank you card and treats for staff.</p>
<p>It is not the first time Alan has had to go to war with the DWP over PIP payments. His visually impaired son Matthew faced a similar ordeal; while he also chairs Birmingham Ability Counts, a disabled football league in the city which has 40 teams, and lost players when their PIP assessments ruled they were not entitled to some payments.</p>
<p> A DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) spokesman said: <strong> </strong> “We want people to get the support they are entitled to. The PIP assessment is designed to treat all health conditions and impairments fairly with decisions made based on all the information available at the time, including evidence from a claimant’s GP or medical specialist. In many successful appeals, such as Mrs Ringland’s, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.” </p>
<p>The statement added: &quot;We have considered the needs of people with hidden disabilities, including autism, in developing PIP assessments. As of July 2019, there were over 80,000 people on PIP where their primary disabling condition was recorded as being autism spectrum disorders, with 45 per cent of them receiving the top rate of support.</p>
<p> &quot;Since PIP was introduced, 3.3m initial decisions  <u>following an assessment</u>  have been made to March 2019, and by June 2019 5% have been overturned at Tribunal.&quot; </p>
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