Aisha is a 63 year-old woman who suffers from a number of health problems including chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and lichen planus (an illness which causes painful swelling and irritation in the skin). Aisha was also diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and trauma caused by surgery at that time causes chronic pain in Aisha’s right arm, which is her dominant arm (she also has osteoarthritis in her right shoulder). In addition to her other conditions, the limited use of her right arm adds to her difficulty in carrying out daily tasks. Aisha unfortunately has to rely on very strong medication and this affects her alertness and leaves her drowsy.
Aisha received Disability Living Allowance for seven years but had to complete another application when the benefit changed its name to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). After a medical assessment, and despite the severity of her conditions, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) awarded her nil points when they assessed her claim which meant that she was not entitled to any benefits at all. Aisha, who does not speak fluent English, and her husband could not afford to pay for a lawyer but were referred to LawWorks for free legal advice. LawWorks recruits and trains volunteer lawyers to help clients in this situation and, with supervision from LawWorks, the volunteer lawyers assisted Aisha and her husband to appeal the DWP decision. The volunteer lawyers obtained further medical evidence, prepared a written submission in support of Aisha’s case and represented her at her tribunal hearing on the telephone, with the help of an interpreter.
The Tribunal took only 30 minutes to overturn the decision of the DWP and awarded Aisha the maximum number of points she could obtain for a PIP award, giving her a total annual benefit payment of £4,635, in addition to arrears from the date of her application. Unusually, she was also granted PIP for an indefinite period.
Aisha has nothing but praise for LawWorks and the volunteer solicitors. She says, “They supported us at a time when we had nowhere else to turn. The benefit payments have made a real difference to my life because I can now afford to buy the clothes and food that I need. I was treated with respect and kindness by the lawyers and I’m so grateful to them for their help.”