People with disabilities forced to fight to get and then keep PIP benefits, Bury charity says

People with disabilities are being forced to fight to get and then keep benefits they are intended to, charities say.

New research has found that seven out of 10 people who appealed in court against the decision to deny them disability benefits were successful.

North West charity Fightback4Justice says it is dealing with more cases than ever, and in the past 12 months have had a 91% success rate when it has come to disability benefits appeals.

Julie Momen is just one of hundreds whose money has been cut, she has had arthritis and other health problems for years, and had claimed Disability Living Allowance.

But when she applied for the new Personal Independence Payment or PIP, she was turned down after assessors scored her zero.

Julie spent two years trying to fight the decision and says the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) lost her paperwork and medical records.

It was only when she sought help that she won her appeal.

She said: "It just got to the stage where they'd lost all the evidence and who else helps you?

"After two years, why would they put you through that? And then just because somebody else can get that information quicker they succeed.

"The papers were there. My evidence was there. In two weeks, they phoned me and said, Julie, everything's coming back to you."

Bury-based Fightback4Justice came to Julie's rescue, and say that their success rate is higher than national figures which show seven in 10 appeals are successful.

Founder and Legal Advocate Michelle Cardno said: "To me, that [successful appeals] says the system isn't working. And I've been saying this for the last seven years, that it doesn't work unless you know what you're doing.

"Unless you're highly articulate in the legal side or you know the benefit system very well, then you wouldn't understand much of what they need for a successful PIP claim."

Charity Fightback4Justice has helped hundreds get, and keep, their disability benefits.

In a statement the DWP said: "We support millions of people a year and our priority is they get the support to which they are entitled as quickly as possible.

"The vast majority of PIP cases are not appealed and we continue to improve the service offered to customers, including through recent changes to our decision-making process."

But Fightback says assessors do not always see the full picture.

Michelle added: "There are more and more mistakes being made, and it's getting more and more frustrating for people to get through to the DWP to find out why the money stopped or ask for extensions, or even ask for documents relating to their appeal.

"It's just it's stacked against them constantly. There's just obstacles all the way."

At Fightback, they ring a bell every time they win an appeal. They say the sound will cease only when there's no more need for people to go to court.