Kesgrave cancer survivor Kim Sale wins fight to keep car
A determined Kesgrave teenager who lost a leg to cancer has won a battle to keep her specially adapted car – and her independence.
Kim Sale feels like a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders as she celebrates the news her beloved Fiat 500 is here to stay.
The teenager, who had her leg amputated to save her life from Ewing Sarcoma in 2015, launched an appeal to keep the car after government officials told her it was being withdrawn.
Now the decision made by Department for Work and Pensions bosses has been overturned after the case was taken up by her MP – meaning Kim doesn’t have to give up her freedom.
“I was over the moon and really excited when I was told the decision had been reversed and I was being awarded the enhanced rate for mobility,” she said.
“It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“The realisation that I am able to retain my independence by keeping my Motability vehicle is just fantastic news for me.
“It really does make a huge difference to my life having an adapted vehicle and means I will be able to freely choose where I study my A-levels and be able to travel for employment.
“My story has received lots of support and I am extremely grateful for all those that wanted to help as much as they could.”
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Brave Kim qualified for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in June 2017 after a tough few years in rehab – which meant she was able to take her driving test early.
She passed with flying colours on her first attempt, and was given her car – which she calls ‘Phoebe the Fiat’ – through the Motability charity.
But in January DWP chiefs told her she hadn’t qualified for the higher rate of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which DLA recipients have to apply for at 16.
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter intervened in Kim’s fight and penned a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.
He said: “I was delighted to help Kim as there was no doubt in my mind that her case should be reviewed urgently and am very pleased that when I pressed Minister Sarah Newton on Kim’s behalf she agreed with me.
“The original decision regarding her PIP has now been reversed and Kim has been awarded the enhanced rate of mobility allowance.”
‘The assessment system is flawed’ – Kim’s mother
While Kim’s mother Kellie Thorndyke is thrilled that her daughter has managed to win her car back, she has a message for others who find themselves in similar positions.
She said the ordeal has been very stressful – and feels the system of applying for PIP is flawed, particularly as so many people receive the lower rate before appealing only to find the decision is overturned at a later date.
“My message to others who find themselves in our position is to keep fighting it, if you feel the decision is wrong make sure you appeal,” she said.
“It has been very stressful and a lot of hassle.
“We will be campaigning to try and help others going forward by highlighting how flawed this assessment system is.
“Changes need to be made so that in the future people are assessed correctly in the first instance and not put through the added stress, pressure and disruption that having to appeal and take to tribunal brings.”
Ms Thorndyke and Kim also wanted to personally thank Helen Wittgreffe, who wrote to Dr Poulter raising the awareness of the situation – prompting his correspondence with Esther McVey.
‘Our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly’
Representatives for the Department for Work and Pensions said that all decisions are made with careful consideration.
According to government officials, anyone who disagrees with the verdict can appeal and provide additional information to support their claim.
A spokesman said: “Assessments work for the majority of people, with 87% of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience.
“However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.
“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants and we continue to work closely with our assessment providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments.
“Since PIP was introduced 2.9 million decisions have been made, 8% have been appealed and 4% have been overturned – often because further evidence has been provided.”