Published: 06:00, 09 October 2019
A disabled woman and her family have been left in financial limbo after she was denied benefits.
Kelly Cripps of Hollywood Lane, Wainscott, suffers from multiple health issues, and found out last month that she was to lose her Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
It may mean she could also lose her disability car. Her husband Martin, who acts as her carer, will lose his carer’s allowance.
The 40-year-old mother-of-two had been asked to attend a reassessment session at The Quays in Chatham Maritime on Wednesday, July 24.
Kelly has health problems including fibromyalgia, arthritis, scoliosis, spondylosis, sleep apnea, limb deficiency, liver disease, hiatus hernia and severe migraines.
She cannot walk unaided. She gets around the ground floor of her house, where she also sleeps, on crutches, and cannot raise her right arm due to a stroke.
Her husband helps with her bathing, dressing and going to the toilet.
At the assessment, she was asked questions about her abilities, and was told she could only answer yes or no.
The letter which she received on Thursday, September 12, explained she had been denied PIP due to a “change of needs”.
The assessment considers a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, including making food, washing, reading and communicating.
In order to get a basic rate of PIP, you would need to score between eight and 11 points on either of the two components: daily living and mobility.
As Kelly scored zero in all categories except for managing toilet needs or incontinence and moving around, she was denied the payment.
“Everything’s done for her. If he doesn’t do it, I do."- Kelly;s mother Jean Reeves
Her monthly payment of £222 has stopped, and Martin - who gave up his job two years ago as a refuse collector to care for his wife - is no longer eligible for carer’s allowance of £66 a week.
The family’s only income now is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), child benefit and tax credits which add up to £1,195 a month.
They are also appealing a decision to stop disability benefits for their eldest son Tyler, 10, who has autism and autism spectrum disorder.
Kelly’s mother Jean Reeves, 65, who used to be Kelly’s carer, said: “Before she was on PIP, she used to do the cooking. She had the scoliosis and spondylosis of the spine but things weren’t bad like they are now.
“He does all the cooking, cleaning, everything basically.
"She can’t get on the floor with the kids, she can’t do anything with them.”
“Everything’s done for her. If he doesn’t do it, I do.
“If the car goes, we’re stuffed. They give you a month from when your money stops then they take it back.”
Martin uses the car to take Kelly to medical appointments and their two children - Tyler and Dylan, six - to school.
“How she’s changed, I don’t know,” Jean added.
“I’d love to see her walk down the road, she’d love to do it herself. She can’t get on the floor with the kids, she can’t do anything with them.”
Kelly, who also has access to a manual wheelchair and a scooter but spends much of her time in her bed, said: “This is the only time I am comfortable on here [her bed] and in my wheelchair for a little while.”
The family has been told that it could take up to 10 weeks for an appeal and the decision has plunged Kelly into depression.
She said: “All I’ve been doing is sleeping, I’d rather sleep because then it blocks it all out.
“I’ve been through that before and it took me to a dark place. I don’t want that again.”
“The system is broken.”- Cllr Vince Maple (Lab)
Martin may have to return to work to provide for the family, leaving Kelly - who used to work as a carer herself - reliant on her mother.
A statement from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said PIP decisions were made following “careful consideration of the evidence provided, as well as their GP or medical specialist”.
The spokesman said the DWP was advising the family on help available but was looking at the decision again.
“We want anyone with a health condition or disability to get the support they are entitled to, and decisions for PIP are made following careful consideration of the evidence provided by the individual as well as their GP or medical specialist.
“We have been advising Ms Cripps and her husband about the help available to them and the family is in receipt of other support.
“Meanwhile we are looking at Ms Cripps’ PIP decision again.”He said a number of questions were asked at assessment, not just ones which require a yes or no answer.
The family have contacted their MP Kelly Tolhurst (Con) and are also trying to get a home with better access for Kelly.
Before an appeal can be lodged, the claimant has to ask for the decision to be looked into again.
This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration notice.
The DWP advise that a Mandatory Reconsideration can take up to 12 weeks.
If they are unhappy with the response the claimant can take it to an independent tribunal, which is dealt with by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
A person going to tribunal has to decide whether they want to attend in person so that that their appeal can be explained in person.
If they do not attend, the appeal is decided based on their appeal form and supporting evidence.
Latest figured from the DWP revealed that Medway face a median wait of 67 days for this initial review, known as a mandatory reconsideration, according to the latest DWP figures.
This is almost double the 36-day average reported just one year previously.
Since PIP was introduced in 2013, replacing the previous Disability Living Allowance, 3,400 people in Medway applied for a mandatory reconsideration.
The DWP rejected the appeal in 86% of cases.
People who wish to fight the decision can then lodge a formal appeal with the Courts and Tribunals Service – 1,260 have been made against the DWP since 2013 in Medway.
Cllr Vince Maple, lead of the Labour Party at Medway Council, has used his knowledge of working at the DWP to help some of his residents in Chatham Central with PIP appeals.
He has seen people wait for between one and two years for a decision.
He said: “The system feels like it’s driving people to the point of not bothering with the process.
“It’s disappointing that so many people are ending up in these situations.”
He said that often people were put off from going through with their appeal because it is called a tribunal.
He added: “Across Medway, there’s probably thousands of people who are in a similar situation where the appeal takes more than a year.
“The system is broken.”