Norwich mum’s battle for disabled son after benefits slashed

A Sprowston mum-of-four is fighting to get her family's disability benefit back after being told her son was not disabled enough to qualify for the help.

Julia Challonder, who volunteers at Norwich's Citizens Advice Bureau, was told before Christmas that her family was being stripped of its blue badge and �30 a week in help, as her son was being put on a lower rate of disability support.

Mrs Challonder, of Colindeep Lane, looks after her 13-year-old son Byron who has autism and severe learning difficulties. Her 14-year-old son Connor, also has learning problems. The letter came as the Government's Welfare Reform Bill is set to overhaul the amount of money given to disabled people and the families who care for them.

Mrs Challonder, 38, who has got into debt since the benefits were cut in December, said: 'I can't just sit still and wait for it all to happen. I want to be able to be independent, but I have a full time son to care for.'

She has appealed the decision and, working with the CAB, has been gathering evidence of her son's disabilities so he can be put back on the same level of support he had been getting for the past decade. Mrs Challonder said: 'I've spent all Christmas getting evidence from anyone who has anything to do with Byron. It is guilty until proven innocent.'

She has gathered letters from teachers, doctors and care workers which will be handed to the Department for Work and Pensions later this week and has vowed to take the case to tribunal if her appeal is rejected. But Mrs Challonder, who is studying for a degree in social science with the Open University, fears worse could come if the Government's Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.

'I'm finding it very daunting,' she said. 'They have no idea what we have to live with.'

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The Government says it is looking to overhaul the benefits system, replacing the disability living allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It estimates that 500,000 fewer sick and disabled working age people will receive DLA by 2015 as result of DLA reforms and PIP spending will be cut by 20pc.

DWP Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, said the Government would continue to spend over �40bn a year on support for disabled people.

She said: 'Even in these tough financial times it's a priority that this support is there for those who need it.

'We spend around �12.6bn a year on DLA. At the moment people complete a self assessment questionnaire to apply for DLA and don't always have to submit additional medical evidence.

'Most people who claim DLA have conditions that change over time, yet the vast majority of people get DLA for life without any inbuilt checks.

'As a result, figures show that in just one year, over �600 million was paid out to individuals whose condition had changed and were no longer eligible for the benefit they were receiving. Equally concerning is that �190 million is not being claimed despite individuals experiencing deteriorating conditions.

'At a time when the country has to cut its debt, we can't sit back and allow this to continue. That is why we are set to replace DLA with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment.'