Benefit snub for Sutton man despite disability tribunal victory

A SUTTON man with a number of major health problems says he is unable to claim Disability Living Allowance – despite winning his case at a tribunal.

James Hutchison (64) has undergone surgery for bowel cancer and has suffered a heart attack, but has been unable to claim after being told the Disability and Carers Service was to appeal the judges’ unanimous decision.

Mr Hutchison, who ran his own mini bus company before ill health meant he was unable to drive, first applied for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in January last year.

His claim was refused and the case was eventually heard by a tribunal in Chesterfield in July.

He won the case and expected to receive more than £6,000 in back payments.

“I have never claimed anything off anybody,” he said. “I ran my own business for six years and I have worked for 45 years. I’ve never been on the dole.

“I’ve got nothing else coming in, not a penny. I did have savings but they are all gone – it’s terrible.

“It’s cost us a fortune in phone calls.”

Mr Hutchison, who has had a device fitted in case he suffers another heart attack and cannot walk for more than 40 to 50 yards, says he is ‘on edge all the time’.

He says he has never undergone a medical assessment for his claim but at the tribunal expert judges decided his health was so poor they awarded him payments, backdated to January last year, for an indefinite period.

“I won this 10 weeks ago. It’s not fair,” he added.

Mr Hutchison has contacted Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero, who has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
She said: “This is a man who has worked all his life and never claimed a penny. I have now asked the Government minister to personally looked into it.

“I have read Mr Hutchison’s appeal judgement. It says Mr Hutchison is open and honest and his condition is unlikely to improve.

“This looks like an open and shut case so why is the Government wasting taxpayers’ cash appealing again?

“Mr Hutchison has been through enough. I won’t give up until justice is done.”

A spokesman from the Department of Work and Pensions, which runs Disability and Carers Service, said: “Disability Living Allowance is designed to give severely disabled people who are virtually unable to walk or do things like wash or dress themselves with the cash support they need to live more independent lives.

“We know that the current system is confusing though and is based on unclear criteria.

“That’s why we’re introducing a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment, with a more objective assessment and regular reviews, to ensure the system is fairer and gets support to those who need it most.”

Facts about Disability Living Allowance

• The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) care component is paid when people are unable to wash themselves or prepare a meal. A mobility component is paid when people are unable or virtually unable to walk.

• There is a DLA appeal process if anyone thinks a decision is wrong. If a person provides additional information or supporting evidence, a claim can be looked at again.

• If someone is entitled to DLA payments after the appeal process is complete, the payments will be backdated to when the claimant first applied for the benefit.

• More than £40 billion is spent per year on disabled people and their services, including over £13bn a year on DLA - which is about the same as the entire Transport budget.

• According to Government officials the current DLA system is ‘outdated’ and £630m is lost in overpayments. There is also £190m of underpayments where conditions change over time.

• They also say that under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme the most severely disabled will be protected, with a greater proportion getting the higher rates compared to DLA.