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THE parents of a teenager living with cerebral palsy have criticised the Department for Work & Pensions’ decision to refuse her benefits application for failing to turn up to an assessment – despite only notifying the family of the appointment by letter whilst they were away on holiday.
The family of 16-year- old Catherine Mecredy from Holt, was applying for Personal Independence Payment to replace her existing benefit, Disability Living Allowance, which is being phased out by the DWP. The state benefit is used to fund a specially-adapted vehicle, assisting Catherine with her personal independence.
As part of the application process, Catherine was invited to attend an assessment meeting on 28th August. However, the letter inviting Catherine to the meeting was delivered whilst the family was on holiday, and by the time they had returned, the date for the meeting had passed.
“We immediately called to explain what had happened,” explained Catherine’s father, Mark Mecredy, “but the Department for Work & Pensions is now refusing the claim.”
Explaining why the refusal had been made, correspondence from the DWP said, “because you didn’t go to the assessment on 28th August and we don’’t think you’ve given us a good reason for this.”
Following the news, the family asked the DWP to re-evaluate the decision, but the government organisation did not find in the family’s favour.
Mark said, “The DWP have undertaken their mandatory reconsideration of the case and are “unable to change the original decision”. In a nutshell, then, the DWP effectively notified us of their assessment meeting after the meeting took place, and now two case officers have somehow concluded that this was not a valid reason for failing to attend.
“The letter also explains that we may appeal to an independent tribunal, and we shall certainly do so unless the DWP comes to its senses in the meantime.
“Meanwhile, Catherine’s DLA payments stop on the 2nd October. There is the option to reapply, but it is such a long process.
“Presumably many others have been caught in the same trap. Is the DWP just incompetent in summoning claimants by mail at short notice during the holiday period, or is this, as in the Windrush fiasco, a deliberate ruse to deny people the benefits to which they are entitled?”
In response, a DWP spokesperson told Melksham News, “We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support that they need, and under PIP 30% of people are getting the highest rate of support, compared with 15% under DLA. PIP takes a much wider look at the way a person’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis and assessments are important to ensure someone gets the right level of support.
“If we are told in advance that someone is unavailable for assessment during a certain period we can take that into account when making an appointment. But once the appointment has been made we can only accept emergency situations as good reason not to attend an assessment.
“The claimant can either now make a new claim for PIP – any award will be considered from the day after any award for DLA ends – or they can appeal to the independent tribunal.”