Gosport woman raises concerns over disability benefits

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A WOMAN suffering from a neurological condition will have to wait until at least June to see if she can claim disability allowance.

Helen Cross, 38, of Gosport, was diagnosed with ME last December.

But her symptoms had started showing in November, when civil engineer Helen would collapse both at home and her work place.

Her initial claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – which would cover her loss of income – was declined.

And when Helen sent information to show she had been diagnosed with ME, she was hoping her case would be reassessed.

But instead she was told she would have to appeal the decision, which wouldn’t be heard until June this year – at the earliest.

Helen said: ‘Having being very capable and independent, and having suddenly lost that is exceptionally difficult.

‘Having to rely on my mother at 38 is not something I’m proud of – it should be me looking after her, rather than her wheeling me around the supermarket if I need shopping.

‘Life is quite slow, I don’t get very much done. It depends on the day. I do find I get confused very easy.

‘When you’re very tired you cant seem to function and that’s how I am most of the time.

‘Memory fuction is hard. I have three, 30 minute rests a day, and try and get much as much sleep.

‘I had a stressful job so I was very busy, but I have been doing that for 17 years, then I got a virus and started collapsing.

‘Work have held my position open and, but you can’t expect them to pay you forever.’

Helen believes her case is not unique and is frustrated at how slow the appeals system seems to be.

‘I’m not just doing this for me, I’m very frustrated about the system,’ she added.

‘We hear a lot about benefit fraud, but what we don’t seem to hear about is how difficult it is when you’re suddenly in a desperate situation and I’m very concerned about other people and how it effects them.

‘Eight months without a benefit is very difficult if it’s something that you’re entitled to.’

Her mother Maggie, 70, has been caring for her.

She said: ‘I feel sad for her because she has not only had to swallow her pride because she’s used to doing and thinking for herself in a high-powered job.

‘Now suddenly she’s got to rely on me.

‘But as far as I’m concerned as a mum I am going to support her and get on with it.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said the appeal cases are heard by the Ministry of Justice and that the current system is due to change.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be introduced in April 2013, which will revise the criteria for benefit allowance.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘At the moment the DLA doesn’t deal with fluctuating illnesses, where you have days you feel fine, and other days when yo’re not well.

‘Therefore you have a high volume of appeals and the MoJ realises that.

‘It will be changing to the PIP.

‘In the meantime if anyone is concerned, then it’s always worth raising it with your MP.’