The mum of a teen with a severe learning disability has won her battle to regain a carer’s allowance after a doctor mistaking her son’s novelty money bank for a more sophisticated grasp of finance led to it being cut.
The teenager’s case has been the subject of a legal appeal after the evaluation assessed the young man as a ‘level one’ case – the lowest band, meaning his condition doesn't seriously affect his daily life – even though he had been found at 'level three', the highest, just a few years earlier.
The bands directly impact the amount of income support his family receives to cope with his specific needs.
The doctor’s evaluation of the young man formed the basis of a decision by a Social Security officer to downgrade his family’s carer allowance by more than £100 a week.
Pictured: The appeal disputed the decision of Social Security which was based on an assessment by a doctor.
But following an appeal, the Income Support Medical Tribunal – a panel of independent members who are tasked with reviewing appeals of this nature – has ruled in the mother’s favour, finding that the teen’s condition does indeed place him at the highest possible level of need.
Although the young man’s condition has never been formally diagnosed, members of his family gave evidence to the Tribunal about the extent of how it impacts his ability to carry out day-to-day activities without help.
The judgment of the Tribunal lays out the parameters of the assessment which consists of 12 physical tests and six mental tests which the individual must carry out – any difficulty completing the tasks contributes to an overall score to determine how much their condition impacts them on a day-to-day basis.
The Tribunal heard that part of the assessment tries to ascertain whether the individual is capable of managing their own finances. From the doctor’s consultation with the teenager, he understood that the young man had his own bank account and cash card which allowed him to withdraw funds from a cash point by himself.
Pictured: The doctor misunderstood that the teenager was managing his own finances.
However, his family gave evidence that this wasn’t in fact the case and the doctor had misunderstood the teenager when he was talking about a safe where he keeps his pocket money, which he accesses using a key card.
Explaining his mother’s evidence on this point, the Tribunal writes: “In relation to finance, [the young man] did not have a bank account. He had a box which he called his bank and his pocket money went in there. He had a novelty card, a sort of key in order to open this. He only had pocket money which she gave to him and she did not think that [he] could manage normal household finance matters on his own.”
This account was echoed by other members of his family and there were several other areas where the family's evidence differed greatly from the assessment of the doctor and therefore of the Social Security officer.
The teenager’s mother added that her son relied on her for many daily activities such as collecting his prescription and getting up in the morning.
Pictured: The Tribunal reassessed the teenager and ultimately ruled in favour of his mother.
Having heard all of the evidence, the Tribunal went on to make their conclusions.
Firstly, they acknowledged “that it is unfortunate that [the young man] has never received a specific diagnosis of his condition. It is to be hoped that this will be possible in the future.”
They added that they reached their decision by assessing how the teen would fare, if he were not supported by his “very caring family” to ensure that they were making an “appropriate assessment” of his needs.
The Tribunal went on to find that the assessment had wrongly evaluated the needs of the young man in three key areas and therefore he was actually still a ‘level three’ case, meaning his family were indeed entitled to the full carer’s allowance.
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