04 June 2009

I've been washing with wet wipes for six weeks

A WOMAN with cerebral palsy has been washing herself with wet wipes for the past six weeks because she does not qualify for a new bathroom under means testing.

Jackie Payton is “losing dignity” because she has to sit on the toilet in her terraced house wiping herself down just to have a wash.

For the past few weeks she has been unable to get in the bath for pain relief or water massage because her body’s muscles have deteriorated.

The problem boils down to government means testing, which means that because of Mrs Payton’s income she would have to stump up £13,500 before she could claim a Disabled Facilities Grant.

The 48-year-old, of Rainbow Hill, contacted South Worcestershire Care and Repair (SWCR), which oversees the grant in January.

But when she was assessed she was told she did not qualify for a cash grant which would have paid for a walk-in ‘wet room’ shower fitted in her terraced home.

Bosses at Care and Repair said even they were surprised at the means test results but their hands were tied by its outcome.

Care and Repair is an independent home improvement agency, funded by several groups including Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council, which offers advice as well as grant aid to the elderly, disabled and people on low incomes.

Mrs Payton said: “It’s decisions like this that make me a disabled person and not a person with a disability.

“It’s about independence.”

She said the figure being given from the means test showed the process was flawed.

“They take into account my husband’s work income, my weekly disability benefits and the only thing it doesn’t take account of is a small pensions payment,” she said.

“It doesn’t take any account of our outgoings.

“It’s flawed and I’ve said that from day one.”

Her husband Alan Payton works long shifts for a printer firm in Blackpole and in total with benefits the family bring in about £22,000 annually.

Mrs Payton said it was “unfair” to expect her husband to help her wash after he had been out working all day.

“It’s an odd one,” said Andy Paul, Care and Repair agency manager.

He said that because the couple were below the retirement age, the means test worked against their potential grant award. However, Mr Paul said he was so surprised by the £13,500 figure he had ordered an independent case worker to re-assess Mrs Payton but came up with the same result.

“In all there have been two re-assessments looked at by three case workers, and the results are the same,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mrs Payton is in limbo and has said it will take the couple “years” to save for a bathroom.

Her only option is to apply for help from a charity.

Although the condition she was born with is not life-limiting, a shower offers pain relief and aids her mobility by massaging the cramped spasming muscles.

“I’m sure there are others out there who will be in the same boat,” said Mrs Payton.

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