by Samar Maguire
A disabled Bermondsey mum fears she will not be able to take her young children to school after the government takes away funding for her car next week, under new benefits rules.
Jessica Lucas, 35, of Buttermere Close, has been suffering from severe health problems for ten years, using the car for the last three years to take her two children aged five and nine to school.
The government’s new scheme meant that Jessica had to prove she was unable to walk further than 20 metres to ensure her eligibility for the vehicle.
She managed the distance but the journey to school is more than a mile away.
Her only form of transport is the car funded by the working-age Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which was replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in 2013. In March last year, figures confirmed that PIP would see as many as 180,000 DLA claimants lose their cars after reassessment.
“Why am I being punished for having a disability? It’s disgusting,” said Jessica. “I’m in constant pain every day of my life. The only dignity I have left as a 35-year-old woman is my car.”
Jessica has been suffering with lupus, osteoarthritis of the spine, degenerative disc disease and has a herniated disc among other medical conditions.
“How will my kids get to school?” she said. “I’m not working and I can’t afford the cab.
“What do they expect? My children walking through Burgess Park? I’d never let them in this world today. You hear so much about children being stabbed or taken.
“I can’t do other things that other mums do which is heart-breaking enough as it is.”
Neil Coyle MP for Bermondsey & Old Southwark believes the government lack a long-term vision.
“Unfortunately, repo man is going to be very busy targeting isolated, vulnerable and disadvantaged disabled people like this lady,” he said.
“The general public want those who genuinely need support to have it, but unfortunately the system that the government is using is totally insensitive to genuine needs.
“If this woman now has to claim new costs from the council because this person or others can’t attend medical appointments because they haven’t got transport, it’s going to cost the NHS.
“It’s very short term thinking and ineffective in trying to save money.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Decisions for PIP are made following a face-to-face assessment with medical professionals and consideration of all the evidence provided by the claimant, including the claimant’s GP.
“We are working closely with Motability who are providing support to people leaving the scheme following reassessment. The majority of people will be eligible for a one-off payment of £2000, which will help ensure their mobility needs continue to be met.”