Gosport woman left fighting for her disability benefits

FRUSTRATED Maggie Cross, left, and her daughter Helen Cross with dog Holly, at Helen's home.  Picture: Allan Hutchings (120806-906)
FRUSTRATED Maggie Cross, left, and her daughter Helen Cross with dog Holly, at Helen's home. Picture: Allan Hutchings (120806-906)
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A WOMAN suffering from the neurological condition ME will have to wait until at least June to see if she can claim disability allowance.

Helen Cross was diagnosed last December.

Her symptoms started showing in November, when Helen, an accounts manager for a Ministry of Defence contractor, would collapse both at home and at work.

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

And when Helen, 38, 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, of Elson Lane in Gosport, said: ‘Having gone from being quite an outgoing person – travelling around the country with my job, going for walks with my dogs – to suddenly lose that is difficult.

‘All you hear about is benefit cheats but I don’t think people realise how difficult a process it is. I feel sorry for people who have life-threatening illnesses or sick children who have to go through this system.

‘To expect people to wait six months for an appeal is wrong when it is a time they need to concentrate on other things like getting better and being with their families.’

Helen praised charities who are willing to step in and help but says it shouldn’t be left to them to act.

‘I have two Labradors I got from the Labrador Lifeline Trust and now the charity has offered to pay for their food,’ she said.

‘It’s great charities are willing to do that but they shouldn’t have to.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said appeals are heard by the Ministry of Justice but the system is due to change.

The Personal Independence Payment will be introduced in 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 you’re not well.

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

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