When Wendy Fitton was 32 she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – a disease which would come to rob her of her mobility and her career as a counsellor.
But she adjusted.
Wendy became used to the frequent medical appointments; she learned to manage her decreasing mobility through the use of her trusty walker.
She was able to maintain a good quality of life, even after she had to take early retirement and move into a more accessibility-friendly home.
What Wendy, now 59, was not anticipating, however, was a lengthy battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) two-decades on from her initial diagnosis.
In 2015 the DWP announced plans to switch the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Wendy was in full receipt of the DLA, which gave her around £400 a month as she was awarded the maximum allowance.
This money was an essential part of Wendy’s income, as it supplemented her pensions – which were diminished after retiring long before 65.
When the government announced the phasing out of the DLA and move to PIP, Wendy was to be one of the first to be switched over in the autumn of 2015.
New assessment criteria
A new benefit meant new criteria – and therefore a new assessment was needed.
“I put my application in for PIP, which is a great long form,” says Wendy.
“They didn’t actually ask for a lot of other stuff, but I also sent across notes from my consultant and my doctor.”
She went to her assessment in October 2015, where she was met by a non-medical assessor.
“You wouldn’t have called her a medical person,” explains Wendy, “not a professional in any sense.
“She told me she used to be a psychiatric nurse, but she obviously hadn’t done any other medical research and certainly knew nothing about my condition.
“We talked generally about my life and my ability to walk – but she didn’t get me to do anything.
“In fact, at one point she asked to see my arms – which I hadn’t mentioned, and are nothing to do with MS for me.”
A month later she received “a great, big, long letter” rejecting her from any further disability payments.
“This letter was lying about me. It was basically a long list of untruths about me.
“If you saw it, you wouldn’t have recognised me in it.”
Wendy decided to appeal to DWP, and after nearly a year-long battle she was restored to the lower level of PIP and was back-paid for the months she had been without support.