After humiliating fit-for-work tests, disabled mum has her benefits axed

A disabled mum was plunged into poverty after she went through a humiliating PIP assessment. With the help of Epilepsy Scotland, she appealed the decision and has won her case.

Pauline Wotherspoon who lives in Greenock says that she was branded a liar when she took the fit-for-work test. Pauline, who is 44, has lived with the crippling condition since she was a child. She can slip in and out of consciousness frequently. Pauline also struggles with memory loss.

Her condition is made worse by Bulimia and migraines. Pauline claims that the condition has affected her mental health. Over the years brutal seizures have left her with bruises, burns and bumps on her body.

Living with her husband Tam, 60 and son Kyle, 15, Pauline says that one of her worst battles has been dealing with the humiliating assessments so that she can qualify and receive lifeline PIP benefits.

Up till two years ago, Pauline was receiving Disability Allowance (DLA). When this was changed to PIP she had to be reassessed. Pauline went for a PIP assessment where she faced a panel including a judge and a doctor.

On her arrival the woman who was ahead of her in line ran out of the room crying. The panel proceeded to ask Pauline lots of questions in rapid succession. She became muddled and confused and ended up in tears as she felt that the panel were mocking her.

The panel branded Pauline a liar and stripped her of all her benefits. She was devastated and felt that she had been humiliated.

For a year since the decision Pauline had been losing over £300 a month and this loss of income had a huge impact on her family.

A written judgement about losing her benefits stated that she had lied about the severity of her condition. Pauline approached the charity Epilepsy Scotland and with their help she appealed the decision and won her case.

While Pauline is happy that she won her case, she does not want other people who suffer from the condition to go through what she went through. Epilepsy Scotland is now fighting to change the PIP assessments and has launched a petition which has so far 1804 signatures on it. The petition will be taken to Westminster.

Chief executive of Epilepsy Scotland Leslie Young stated that the process used now to assess people with epilepsy was not only unfair, it was also unfit for purpose.

Once the magical number of 10,000 signatures has been reached the government has to respond and when the figure reaches 100,000 it is debated in Westminster.

Ms Young said that unfortunately Pauline’s experience was one that they had heard many times before. There is a blatant lack of understanding about the condition in the PIP assessment process.

Because of the complex and difficult impact of seizures, a rigid tick-box system does not necessarily give a true reflection of the condition of the applicant. The appeal becomes a stressful process which is unnecessary.

Epilepsy Scotland stated that the reason they were calling on the government to review how people with epilepsy are assessed is because they want the assessments to be right the first time and not be repeated. Making the right decision the first time will stop the significant number of appeals and tribunals for people with epilepsy.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said that they want people to get the support they are entitled to. Under PIP 27% of those who have epilepsy get the highest level of support. Under DLA this figure was just 6%.

The Department of Works and Pensions concluded by saying that they were sorry Mrs Wotherspoon had been subject to a difficult experience. They monitor assessment providers very closely to ensure that customers are given the best quality of service possible.


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