Sheringham amputee denied help with mobility

Julia Kirby, surrounded by some of the equipment she needs when she travels. She has been denied a M

Julia Kirby, surrounded by some of the equipment she needs when she travels. She has been denied a Motability car after having her leg amputated below the knee.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A woman coming to terms with the trauma of losing a leg has found she does not qualify for crucial help because government officials believe she may get better.

Julia Kirby, who said she had never before claimed a benefit, is angry that government support is not there when she needs it most.

Mrs Kirby, 61, had to have her right leg amputated below the knee in April because she was suffering from chronic osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone. The news came as a huge shock, despite two years of pain, because a medical check-up in November had not revealed any problems.

With her life turned upside down, Mrs Kirby applied under the Motability scheme to lease a car big enough to carry her wheelchair, stair climber, walking frame and ramp, so that she could try to lead as normal a life as possible.

But her application has been rejected because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has only awarded her enough benefit to cover the lease for a year.

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Motability only offers three-year leases on vehicles and applicants must be able to prove that they have been awarded the higher rate of benefit, known as the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), for a minimum of 12 months from the date of application.

Explaining why it had restricted her benefit, the DWP wrote: 'Rehabilitation may change how much help you need.'

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But Mrs Kirby said: 'I don't know what they mean by 'rehabilitation' – my leg's not going to grow back! I've worked all my life and have only ever claimed child benefit. It's not fair.'

Even if she was eventually able to use an artificial limb, Mrs Kirby said there would always be times when the stump was inflamed, or she was ill, when she would need the use of her wheelchair and other bulky items.

She has now appealed against the DLA's decision but has been told it will take three months before she gets an answer. And she was warned that, in reassessing her claim, the DWP could decide to reduce the award or cut it completely.

Mrs Kirby is also frustrated at the amount of form-filling she and her husband Jim, who works as a toolmaker, have had to do in order to apply for help, and the long delays waiting for answers.

'Why can't they send someone round to talk to me? Then they would see what help I need. I need things now, not weeks later,' she said.

The couple had already had to fork out £3,000 on a second-hand stair climber so that Mrs Kirby could get in and out of their second-floor flat which is up 30 steps. And any trip in the couple's small Vauxhall Polo had to be done twice, to ferry all Mrs Kirby's equipment.

A DWP spokesman said: 'Higher rate DLA mobility is paid to help people who are either unable to walk or virtually unable to walk. If a person's mobility changes over time then they might not get the benefit any more, or they might get a different rate.

'People have the right to appeal if they don't agree with a decision or want to provide additional evidence.'

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