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Terminally ill mother has her PIP cancelled

TOGETHER: Jacqui Mason with her sister Sheenagh in Thompson House Hospital, Lisburn TOGETHER: Jacqui Mason with her sister Sheenagh in Thompson House Hospital, Lisburn
By Ciara Quinn

THE family of a terminally ill West Belfast mother-of-two say she is being “penalised” for her condition after her PIP payment/disability allowance was stopped.

Clonard woman Sheenagh Mason told the Andersonstown News that her world was turned upside down in December 2016 after she suffered a seizure in her home. After a CT and MRI scan the medical receptionist was diagnosed with a grade four brain tumour. In February 2017, Sheenagh underwent seven and a half hours of open brain surgery, which had to be halted after she developed a weakness on the left side of her body leaving her unable to walk.

Following a period living with her sister Jacqui, and on the advice of social workers, Sheenagh was admitted to Lisburn’s Thompson House Hospital in November, which offers palliative care.

“For a time staying with Jacqui was very peaceful as she has a downstairs wet room and together with carers I was able to live with her,” said Sheenagh.

“However, things began to deteriorate badly following falls I had and we had to look at other options.”

“Options offered were the Hospice or a nursing home but Thompson House was another option and I came here in November, they have a brain injury unit and palliative care.”

Sheenagh’s sister Jacqui explained how PIP guidelines state that anyone who is in hospital after a period of 28 days results in their benefit being stopped.

“Sheenagh is being penalised for being terminally ill, it’s just disgusting, at this stage everything should be as peaceful and stress-free for her. Because Thompson House is technically termed as a ‘hospital’ Sheenagh has lost her benefits, it’s ridiculous.”

The Mason family have started a gofundme page to raise enough funds to buy a mobility adapted vehicle so that Sheenagh can still go out and do “simple things that people take for granted,” said Jacqui.
“If we had a wheelchair accessible vehicle I could take Sheenagh out, go for a coffee. Sheenagh had a dentist appointment two weeks ago and it cost her £60 in a taxi to attend it, for the taxi to wait and then to come back here. On Christmas Day it cost £200 in a taxi to get to my house. If the vehicle was here it would make life just that bit easier.”

Since the family set up their gofundme page almost £8,000 of a £15,000 total has been raised.

Sheenagh spoke of how the family had been “completely overwhelmed” by the generosity that has poured in.
“There are girls coming on the page who I haven’t spoken to since I went to St Louise’s, we’ve been completely blown away, the support has been amazing. People are donating from America, Australia, England. We are so grateful.”

Jacqui said that the family’s aim is to get the vehicle for Sheenagh “which will suit her needs and then we intend to donate it to Thompson House”.

“Sheenagh was initially given 12-18 months to live, she has outlived that. She has such a strong heart, she is fighting for her two young boys and this will be a way to make her everyday as normal as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “We can’t comment on individual cases, however the Department will be in touch with Ms Mason to discuss her case further.

“The rules around benefits and admission to hospital are particularly complex. Some benefits stop being paid or are reduced whilst in hospital as an in-patient. Others are paid in full for a period of time. The rules are set down in legislation for each benefit and the Department has no discretion in this area.

“In Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and PIP benefit is suspended after 28 days in hospital. In ESA payment continues as normal for one year. People affected by these rules remain entitled to the benefit and payment resumes when they leave the care home or hospital.

“The Department does suspend any recovery of an overpayment while the person remains in hospital and will waive recovery of an overpayment where a person is terminally ill.”

To donate towards Sheenagh’s appeal visit https://uk.gofundme.com/fr3c9-have-wheels-will-travel

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