DWP U-turn over blind, autistic teen ordered to city centre benefits reassessment

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BENEFIT chiefs have been forced to back down on their “shocking” decision to order a blind, autistic teenager to attend reassessment for his disability allowances.

Ciaran Vassie, 16, was told by the government just four years ago that he would receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for life.

But Ciaran, who struggles to communicate, was recently ordered to attend a reassessment in central Glasgow to see if he qualified for a new £141.10-a-week payment.

Ciaran with mum Colette

His mother, Collette, from Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, is also disabled and would have had to take her son to the meeting by taxi.

She went on social media to bitterly attack the U-turn and her story was picked up by the media.

Within days the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) backtracked, agreeing that Ciaran’s reassessment could be done using his medical records.

The letter sent to Colette reads: “We’re pleased to tell you that we’ve been able to complete your assessment report based on the available information. This means you do not need to attend a face-to-face consultation.”

Colette, 45 said: “The DWP must have went to the same U-turn classes that Thersa May went to.

“Of course I am happy and relieved that he doesn’t have to go through the assessment.

The U-Turn will do nothing to assuage the feeling that the DWP’s assessments are making money for private businesses.

In April, it was reported that private firms Capita and Atos, who run the assessments, stood to earn nearly £700million from the work between 2013 and this year.

Ciaran as a baby

Bill Scott, policy director at Inclusion Scotland said last week: “It was originally estimated that the DWP would only need to do face-to-face assessments with 60 to 70 per cent of people but now 95 per cent are being seen.

“We believe the reason is that there is a fee of approaching £200 for each assessment. There is a financial incentive for the private companies.”

And Colette agrees adding: “This proves my opinion that it’s just a money making system, because if they truly didn’t have enough evidence they would not have been able to change their mind this quickly or indeed at all.”

Ciaran, who was born 11 weeks premature and weighing two pounds, was left blind at the age of five after suffering from a serious eye infection and having a severe reaction to medications.

He is also autistic and suffers from speech delay problems, meaning he only speaks when heavily prompted.

Colette says he was given Disability Living Allowance at the age of three, and was told at the age of 12 he would be given the benefit for life, as his condition would not change.

But soon afterwards, DLA was replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which Ciaran is applying for.

The new PIP covers essential expenses to Ciaran’s life as a result of his disability, including braille books and taxis.

 
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