The decision to reject a leading disabled activist’s application for disability living allowance (DLA) has fuelled fears that the government is deliberately turning down eligible claims as part of its programme of spending cuts.
Sue Marsh has had seven life-saving operations to her bowel, endures chemotherapy injections every fortnight, experiences daily exhaustion, pain and nausea, has osteoporosis and malnutrition, and has had major seizures and a stroke.
She is no longer able to clean her home properly, often cannot look after her children or herself, and her husband is being forced to take time off work to care for her.
Marsh, who blogs at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger and is political strategist for The Broken of Britain, says in her blog: “I must spend more on good quality food, or I just get more ill. I don’t want the world, I just want to survive.”
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has concluded that she is ineligible for any DLA at all.
Marsh, who has Crohn’s disease, only had to reapply for DLA because she notified DWP herself in 2007 that her condition had improved and so she no longer needed the benefit.
But when her condition worsened again last year, she submitted a new claim. Her initial claim was rejected, so she asked for a “reconsideration”, which has also now been rejected.
Marsh says in her blog: “Despite claiming successfully in the past, despite only getting weaker and more frail and less able to live independently, my reconsideration was rejected.
“I will have to fill in a horribly complicated appeal form over the Xmas period, wait up to one year to go to tribunal, and probably go bankrupt in the mean time. The state will pay thousands to hear my appeal.
“The only conclusion I can come to is that if I don’t qualify for DLA, no-one with bowel disease can.”
Marsh is among disabled campaigners leading efforts to persuade peers to overturn key parts of the government’s welfare reform bill, including cuts to DLA and its replacement with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
A post on her blog describing how her application was rejected has already been viewed more than 10,000 times, and she has been flooded with messages from other disabled people with similar accounts of rejected DLA claims, who have also been forced to appeal.
But Marsh does not believe the decision to reject her claim was connected with her campaigning work.
She told Disability News Service: “There are people like me that are getting turned down every single day. I don’t think there is any conspiracy.
“They must have just been turning people down routinely and expecting them to appeal. A lot of people have said it just seems that everybody is getting turned down.”
There are fears that this government “strategy” could be due to a hole in the DWP’s administrative budget, with it forecast to spend an extra £1 billion a year on employment and support allowance (ESA) – the replacement for incapacity benefit – by 2014-15.
A DWP spokesman said: “We don’t comment on individual cases. If someone disagrees with a decision they have a right to ask for a reconsideration or to appeal.”
But he added: “DLA is awarded on the basis of evidence offered by the claimant and any supporting evidence, for example from a hospital consultant, a GP or a carer.”
When asked whether the decision to turn down Marsh’s application meant that no-one with bowel disease was now eligible for DLA, he said: “DLA isn’t awarded because of a condition or diagnosis, but on how it affects your ability to get around or care for yourself.”
He also said there was “no correlation between spend on ESA and DLA”, and denied that DWP had issued orders to DLA decision-makers to turn down applications from eligible claimants.
21 December 2011