AN insulin-dependant diabetic who can no longer work because of her condition claims she is struggling to make ends meet after a five-month wait for Government aid.
Nicola Holden, 52, of Yeovil, has had diabetes for 40 years. She takes insulin twice a day and last year she was diagnosed with Charcot foot – a condition prevalent in diabetics which means bones fracture and rarely heal entirely. Ms Holden had to retire from her job at Boots in Yeovil as she was unable to walk and her foot is in a cast indefinitely.
Struggling to make ends meet on around £280 a month from her Employment and Support Allowance, Ms Holden applied for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in September but has so far heard nothing.
The benefit is replacing the Disability Living Allowance and since June new claimants were required to apply for PIP instead. Occupational health service provider Atos Healthcare conducts some PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Ms Holden said: “When I contacted Atos in October I was told they could not possibly tell me the status of my application as they were swamped. “When I heard nothing this month I contacted David Laws. I’m very annoyed and unhappy about it.”
Ms Holden said she fears her age and condition will make it difficult for her to tie down another job. She said: “I can only walk or stand for one or two minutes at a time. “I’m struggling to make ends meet and I need to know, if anything, what I might receive, so I can make the right financial decisions.”
Ms Holden said she has found the process an emotional ordeal. She said: “I’m constantly worrying, I’m suffering from severe depression and I’ve had enough. I just want it resolved.”
On Monday Yeovil MP David Laws said long delays processing benefit claims were “unacceptable” and said he is raising the matter with the DWP.
A department spokeswoman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit to better reflect today’s understanding of disability.
“We have introduced a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews. In some cases this process is taking longer than the DLA system, which relied on a self-assessment form.
“We are working with providers to ensure all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be. The benefit is back-dated to the day the claim was received if there are delays.”
An Atos Healthcare spokewoman said a letter was on its way to Ms Holden with a consultation date and apologised for the delay.
She said: “The assessment is a key part of a person’s claim and it’s important each person is given the time they need to explain how their condition affects them. We are looking at various ways in which we can keep our customers better informed, including direct letters and more information on our website.”