'˜Take car and you take my life'

A woman is battling against Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) red tape which could see her lose her lifeline and quit her dream job.

The future looked bleak for veterinary nurse Gwen Gallagher six years ago when she suffered a stroke and lost the use of the entire left side of her body.

After months of rehabilitation and using a wheelchair, she fought back and, although part of her left leg is still paralysed, she was able to get back to her job – which she has loved for over 20 years – thanks to the mobility car she received from the DWP.

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Now, after failing part of the assessment for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit, she faces the prospect of handing back her vital vehicle.

Gwen (42), from Bonnybridge, said: “After having the stroke, the mobility car gave me my independence back and allowed me to get to work. If they take the car from me, I’m going to have to give up my work and the DWP don’t seem to be bothered about it.

“This Personal Independence Benefit has changed, but my condition has not changed in the last six years. They are cracking down because a lot of people are taking advantage of the system, but I’m not one of those people.”

Now appealing against the findings of the assessment, Gwen faces losing her car because she ticked the box on the form stating she can walk safely from between 50 and 200 metres – but people can only qualify for the higher rate of PIP and a mobility car if they are not able to walk more than 20 metres.

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A DWP spokesperson said: “Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“PIP assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals who combine their clinical knowledge with an understanding of the fact that not everyone with the same disability is impacted in the same way. Anyone who is unhappy with a decision can appeal, and may submit additional evidence. Most people leaving the Motability scheme are eligible for a one-off payment of up to £2000 to help meet their needs.”

If Gwen’s appeal against the DWP decision fails she has until February to decide whether she will buy her car – something she now has the right to do under the legislation but may not be able to afford – or return it.