MS sufferer and wheelchair user Penny Aitken was granted a mobility car by the government :: Benefits system changes have ruled she no longer needs it
A former nurse was forced to leave a career spanning almost 30 years after being diagnosed with a degenerative illness.
To survive, Penny Aitken, claimed benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and was awarded a specially adapted car to help her cope with progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that will eventually see her permanently in a wheelchair.
But due to changes in the benefits system the DWP is stripping her of the lifeline vehicle, with new guidelines classing her being in less need of it – despite her worsening condition.
The 53-year-old, who received the bad news a day before completing the Middlesbrough 10k in a wheelchair to raise money for research into MS, says the move will leave her “virtually housebound”.
Penny, from Marton , said: “I received a letter from the DWP to say the mobility has been reduced and they are going to take my car.
“They are trying to save money and are taking cars back off people.
“I was awarded it two years ago and they found in my favour.
“But then I received a letter saying otherwise.
“I’m quite a positive person really but you just despair when you have to go through it all again.
“It’s inevitable that I will be in a wheelchair permanently.”
The former anaesthetic nurse was forced to give up work at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough , in 2015. She had worked at the hospital since 1987.
She first noticed symptoms of MS in 2011 and took ill health retirement four years later, unable to cope with the pressure of being on her feet all day working in operating theatres.
Symptoms of MS include muscle stiffness and tightness which affects movement and eventually leaves sufferers unable to walk.
It also causes problems with vision, numbness, fatigue, dizziness and can trigger depression.
Since leaving her job Penny has tried to stay active in the community – but she relies on her car to get around.
“It’s getting worse,” she said. “I sent off information and they said I would have to go through another assessment.
“I’ll be virtually housebound. People with long-term conditions like myself are being overlooked.”
Penny has been receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the specially adapted car,
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been introduced by the DWP to replace DLA.
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions 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.
“Anyone that disagrees with a decision can appeal.”
He added “most people” leaving the Motability scheme are entitled to a one-off £2,000 payment to help them with alternative transport arrangements.