Liverpool: Wheelchair user had benefits cut after being told 'you can walk across room'

A woman who has used a wheelchair for a decade had her benefits slashed after being told "you can walk across a room".

Donna Henshaw has spina bifida and in the last 10 years her health has deteriorated rapidly and she now uses a wheelchair to get around.

The 51-year-old has spent the last year fighting the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to make sure she was awarded the correct payments after seeing her allowance cut when she was reassessed and deemed able to walk 20m “unaided”.

Ms Hensaw, from Ormskirk, said she has considerable muscle weakness in her legs following an operation and cannot stand up without using crutches.She said for ease she sometimes crawls on the floor of her flat and has to take medication for daily pain.

Ms Henshaw had been awarded Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for the last 26 years at the highest grade available because of her mobility issues.However, when her DLA was replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Ms Henshaw had to be reassessed and her allowance was cut, to the standard grade.

A decision letter sent to Ms Henshaw told her she can walk from room to room unaided, and she had "no muscle wastage evident" in her legs, despite her calves measuring just 22.5cm wide.

She said:

It's just very stressful because you're frightened of what to say, what not to say, because you don't know how they're going to take what you're saying.

Ms Henshaw

For a year Ms Henshaw was wrongly denied up to £180 per month, which greatly affected her independence.

The university graduate said she doesn't feel confident enough to use public transport alone and the first time she tried to board a train independently, she had a panic attack.

To see friends and get around larger distances, she said she had relied on taxis to help her, but could not afford that after all her money had to go on food.

Donna has been using a wheelchair for the last 10 years. Credit: Liverpool Echo

She said: "The drop in money has meant I can't get taxis as much to see friends because I can't afford it, and as a consequence of that I have felt isolated and quite lonely during this last year."

Ms Henshaw said she had received help from her parents, who are in their 70s and 80s, for support round the house as she lives alone, but because of their health they are unable to come round as often.

Her mother was "disgusted" after learning Ms Henshaw's allowance had been wrongly cut.

In fighting to receive the correct benefits, Ms Henshaw's GP wrote to the DWP urging them to reconsider their decision to only award her the standard rate.

While sending many letters herself and trying to deal with the legal jargon sent back to her, Ms Henshaw said she was told the standard rate would not change.

Ms Henshaw said:

I just think it's wrong and I don't think the system is very fair."

Ms Henshaw

She added she wanted to "stand up for herself", but said she's "sure there are people out there who are so ill and may not have the mental energy to try and get help."

She added: "They kept saying I've only got moderately reduced power in my legs, which is totally untrue.

"Who's going to ride around in a wheelchair if they don't need to?"

Ms Henshaw said she has now been offered the appropriate amount after the DWP reviewed her case.

A spokesman for the DWP said:

We are committed to ensuring disabled people get the support they are entitled to. Decisions for Personal Independence Payments are made following the consideration of all the information provided.

DWP spokesperson

Data released by the Department of Communities in September 2018 showed that over 72,000 claimants of DLA were reassessed between June 2016 and May 2018.

Of those, 24% of people had their payment stopped and 19% had it reduced.