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Anger over West Norfolk woman’s benefit refusal appeal defeat

An elderly West Norfolk woman is being denied care support because benefit rules do not properly support her needs, campaigners say.

A county court judge has upheld a decision by the Department for Work and Pensions not to pay attendance allowance to Joan Buckley, who has severe arthritis.

But Mrs Buckley’s supporters believe the rules are not being applied consistently and should be changed to ensure she, and others in a similar position, get the care they need.

Her neighbour, Ruth Ashton, who supported her appeal, said the current criteria are “appalling.”

She added: “She doesn’t want the money to go on a spending spree. It’s to pay for people to help her.”

Under current benefit rules, attendance allowance is paid to people aged 65 and over who have a disability that is severe enough to require either care for the patient, or for them to be supervised to ensure their or others’ safety.

The allowance is paid at two different weekly rates, according to the severity of a patient’s disability.

Miss Ashton, of Gaywood, said Mrs Buckley’s condition is so serious that it makes everyday tasks difficult and had also led to several accidents at her home before council officials agreed to the installation of a wet room on safety grounds.

However, a judgement, issued following a tribunal hearing in Lynn last Wednesday, concluded Mrs Buckley was not entitled to payments because “the statutory conditions for this benefit are not satisfied.”

But Miss Ashton said the decision applied an excessively narrow definition of care needs which was not applied to all cases.

She said: “I know of three subjects who have been awarded attendance allowance which has not considered their personal care needs.”

She added that she was considering taking the case to advice services such as Citizens’ Advice and local politicians.

A government information page on the payments said: “Attendance Allowance helps with extra costs if you have a disability severe enough that you need someone to help look after you. It doesn’t cover mobility needs.”

However, elderly and disability rights charities stress that applicants can still apply again in future, particularly if their need for support increases.

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