Disabled woman’s benefits slashed

A severely disabled Bulwell woman was left feeling suicidal after her benefits were stopped because officials ruled she had too much money in the bank.

Nichola Key (34) was left paralysed on one side of her body and unable to communicate following a brain hemorrhage at the age of 15, and she now needs 24-hour a day care.

But a ruling by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) last month demanded she pay back £5,274. Benefits of £119.80 a week have been stopped because she had savings of £15,000.

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Nichola’s mum Pauline Billson said: “She is very depressed. She wanted to kill herself last week. She is not doing anything wrong. It is not fair.”

Mrs Billson says the money built up in Nichola’s account because she and her husband pay for the majority of her food and clothing. She said: “She doesn’t really go anywhere much. The money just mounts up.”

She says she was not aware of the rule limiting the savings a disabled person can have before their benefits are affected.

Nichola underwent an 18-hour operation on her brain at the age of 15 which caused a series of strokes.

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Mrs Billson said: “She was doing really well at school and wanted to be a nursery school nurse.”

Nichola, of Faulconbridge Close, only weighs five and a half stones and is currently having difficulty eating. She recently broke her shoulder.

Nicola currently receives two hours of professional care each day, and her parents look after her the rest of the time.

Her mum and father, Brian, of Dove Street, hope to move into a bungalow with their daughter in the near future and say they will have to buy new furniture.

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A DWP spokesperson said: “Some ‘means tested’ benefits are not available to those who already have thousands of pounds of savings.

“However there are other disability benefits Nichola may be eligible for – including Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

“These help with the extra costs associated with someone’s disability and are not affected by someone’s income or savings.”

The DWP say there are ‘clear safeguards’ in place to ensure that rates of recovery are ‘set to avoid significant hardship and take account of the claimant’s financial circumstances.’

The spokesperson added: “If a claimant cannot afford repayments, or there is a change in circumstances, they should contact the Department to discuss alternative arrangements.