Woman in wheelchair stripped of disability benefits because she can walk four steps in assessment | 03 February 2020


The Independent, May Bulman, Social Affairs Correspondent

Exclusive: Severely disabled woman told moving from mobility chair to sofa suggested she could walk 200 metres unaided

A woman in a wheelchair was stripped of her disability benefits on the basis that she was able to walk four steps during an assessment.

Michelle Wyatt, 45, who had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) 23 years ago, was forced to survive on £1 ready meals and without heating after her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was stopped.

The York resident said the withdrawal of her disability benefit – which amounted to £75 a week and which she had been receiving since 1998 – had left her feeling suicidal.

The decision to stop her support came after a benefit assessor visited her home in December and concluded that she was no longer eligible for PIP – a disability benefit that replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013 – because she was able to walk “four steps” from her wheelchair to her sofa.

  • Visit The Independent to watch a video recording of the story and to read the full story with comment from disability rights organisations

The assessment report stated that Ms Wyatt was “able to rise unaided from the electric chair and transfer unaided to the sofa” and went on to conclude that it was “therefore reasonable to suggest she is able to rise and walk more than 200 metres unaided”.

Ms Wyatt, who on top of her disability had a battle with breast cancer last year, said her life would be “over” and she would lose her independence without her electric wheelchair, which she could not afford without the benefit payments.

Michelle Wyatt, 45, who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) 23 years ago, was told last month that her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was to stop

“When there is zero money coming into your bank, the first thing you think is switch off your heating, you don’t use the hot water. Even for cooking food you’re thinking this is using gas and electric,” Ms Wyatt told The Independent.

“I’ve been eating low-quality ready meals. I was put in a position where I’m going to experience intense physical deconditioning through lack of physical movement.”

  • The ME Association has produced some helpful guides on applying for disability benefits if you have ME/CFS and what to do if you need to make an appeal

“Without it, my world would become very tiny. I would never leave my flat unless someone were to push me in a manual wheelchair.”​

Days after Ms Wyatt was informed that her PIP was stopping, she said she received notice that her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and housing benefit had subsequently been suspended. They were reinstated 10 days later, but during that time she said she felt suicidal.

“I was hysterical all weekend. Believing I was going to lose my home. I got my friend to come round and got them to put all my stuff in boxes and take it to the charity shop,” she said.

“I was feeling suicidal, and I thought if I take my life my parents will be deeply upset and I didn’t want them to have to deal with all my stuff. I was clearing my flat so that if I died it wouldn’t be too strenuous for them.”

After being contacted by The Independent on Friday, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said they had reviewed Ms Wyatt’s case and reinstated her PIP.

  • Visit The Independent to watch a video recording of the story and to read the full story with comment from disability rights organisations

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