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Fighting for Oliver's right to DLA

Photo: Oliver's story

Annette had all kinds of worries about her deaf son, including how they’d manage financially. But after receiving our help the future is looking brighter.

Oliver was diagnosed with a hearing loss in his left ear at three weeks old. “It was a shock,” says Annette, also mum to Ceri-Ann (16). “I sobbed – didn’t want to believe our perfect little lad was deaf.”

Then, as the months passed, Annette and husband Simon saw little to worry about. “He developed into a normal, cheeky little lad, reaching all the developmental milestones. He was bright, knew how to get what he wants – like his big sister!” says Annette.

“We realised we weren’t alone.”

But during a hearing test at two years old last December, the audiologist found a deficiency in his right ear too. “I was convinced it was due to a cold he’d had, but she said they’d double-check in January and suddenly she was talking about a Teacher of the Deaf visiting us. It was all happening so fast.”

Christmas was an agony of waiting. “The whole time I was thinking ‘Please God, not his right ear too.’ We met Oliver’s Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) Gabrielle, who was lovely, but I couldn’t accept it.”

Then at the follow-up test, the audiologist confirmed moderate loss in his right ear. “I broke down,” recalls Annette. “He was referred for hearing aids that day – one of the worst days of our lives.”

The audiologist gave them our details and they scoured our website. “We got lots of information about hearing aids,” says Annette. “And we realised we weren’t alone.”

Within five weeks Oliver had his hearing aids. “His eyes opened wide – it must’ve been strange to suddenly hear everything so differently,” says Annette.

“I didn’t want to exploit Oliver’s disability for financial gain”

Within three weeks his speech had developed astonishingly. “Before, some of his words were unclear but the clarity of his speech was instantaneous, it was amazing!” says Annette. “We’d been dreading the hearing aids but it turned out to be a big weight off when we saw the difference they made.”

On our website they’d seen information on Disability Living Allowance but were reluctant to claim, even though Oliver’s needs prevented Annette from going to work to supplement Simon’s wages as a transport manager. “I didn’t want to exploit Oliver’s disability for financial gain,” says Annette.

 But after discussion with Gabrielle, they reconsidered. “It was for Oliver, not us – it made sense. A massive form arrived. National Deaf Children’s Society explained that we had to show how having bilateral hearing aids meant he had a disability that would require more care and attention than a hearing child, for communication and safety – like being with him constantly to check he doesn’t break his aids or swallow the batteries.”

“I knew I must fight for him.”

Annette phoned our Freephone Helpline and a family officer, Wendy, helped her claim.

Wendy advised her to send in supporting information, including audiograms, audiology reports and a letter from Gabrielle. But their claim was rejected – Oliver’s hearing aids meant he could hear therefore he had no extra needs, they stated.

“It wasn’t fair on Oliver,” says Annette. “I knew I must fight for him.”

Wendy helped her reply, asking for a revision and sending further supporting evidence, but it was rejected so Annette was referred to Linda in our Benefits Appeals Adviser team.

Linda helped her write a letter to say that she would appeal the decision. Meanwhile, their grounds for claiming had increased: Oliver had received speech and language therapy and also a hearing test showed the loss in his left ear was now severe.

“That was heartbreaking but we were more positive now,” says Annette.

In May the decision was overturned, with weekly £49.30 payment backdated to the original claim in February. They also qualified for a weekly carer’s allowance of £55.55, and for extra money on their child tax credit.

“It’s made a big difference,” says Annette. “We put some away for Oliver’s future. Without the National Deaf Children’s Society I’d have known nothing. Wendy and Linda at the National Deaf Children’s Society kept us positive and encouraged us to keep fighting for Oliver.”