Benefits bosses who confiscated paralysed man’s car overturn decision

A severely disabled former offshore worker has won his mobility car back after benefits bosses performed a U-turn.

Father-of-two Jamie French is paralysed down the right hand side of his body since a major stroke in February 2010, and his doctor says 'he is only able to walk 30 yards'.

But in April this year the Burgh Castle man received a letter from the Disability and Carers Service – based 275 miles away in Blackpool – telling him: 'You can walk about 200 metres slowly.'

He says he was not given a face-to-face health assessment and claims the decision was based on 'misleading' paperwork.

The Mercury highlighted the problems the 40-year-old was having, and after an investigation the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) overturned its original decision.

And the DWP is now changing its systems to avoid such incidents happening again.

'I was really pleased when I found out,' said Mr French. 'I had a car and they took it off me.

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'I was really struggling without it - I just had to stay in unless my friends picked me up.'

A spokesman for the DWP said staff reconsidered the case after being alerted to it, and as soon as medical evidence was provided the original decision was overturned.

The problem was resolved before it went to appeal.

'The current system is confusing and is based on unclear criteria,' added the spokesman. 'That is why we are introducing Personal Independence Payment, with a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews, to ensure the system is fairer and gets support to those who need it most.

'At any time, if someone provides additional information or supporting evidence, we will look again at their claim. 'People have the right to appeal if they think a decision is wrong.'

Mr French's vehicle is currently on order, and he is due to receive it next month.

His friend Dennis McGee, who helped him fill out paperwork, said: 'It's been a long, hard road but he's had friends helping him.

'Really he shouldn't have had to go through this in the first place.'

In a further boost, Mr French was bought a laptop by an Oulton Broad gardener who has been helping community causes since the tragic death of his 19-year-old son in a crash on the A47.

Gary High, 53, bought Mr French a �300 laptop using cash from the Taylor High Memorial Fund.

He has handed out more than �20,000 since the fund was established after Taylor's death on March 26, 2011.

Mr French has hailed Joan and Jo at DIAL Great Yarmouth, Dr Peter Sheldon, Jane at Potters, Gary High, Neil Young at Tube Care, Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis and borough council leader Trevor Wainwright for their help.

Personal Independence Payment will replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013.

If an appeal is successful, any backdated money due is paid as quickly as possible.

A joint task force is in place with representatives from HMCTS (the Tribunal Service) and DWP reviewing all aspects of the decision making and appeals process.

The DWP is also reviewing processes and procedures and increasing customer contact and explanations in order to reduce the number of appeals.

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