Disabled girl from Essex in New Zealand payout battle

Paige Carpenter suffered severe brain damage during her birth in New Zealand 14 years ago

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A girl with severe disabilities is having to fly from Essex to the other side of the world every month in order to qualify for medical compensation.

Paige Carpenter, 14, suffered brain-damage during her birth in New Zealand and was awarded money for her care.

When the family came back to live in Great Bentley, they learned Paige would have to spend one day a month in New Zealand to qualify for payments.

The authorities there said they could not sanction overseas care payments.

Paige was starved of oxygen during her birth, leaving her with epilepsy and cerebral palsy and she has a twisted spine. She uses a wheelchair and can only speak a few words.

She was awarded compensation for life-long care.

'Heart-breaking'

When family circumstances forced her British mother, Donna Carpenter, 43, back to the UK with Paige and her five siblings in 2010, the payments ended.

But a loophole in legislation meant that if Paige was in New Zealand for 24 hours once a month she was entitled to reduced compensation.

This has been £1,000 a week since October last year.

The payment is less than half what Paige was receiving when the family was in New Zealand, as financial support is restricted once beneficiaries leave the country.

Start Quote

The only thing we want to do is improve Paige's life and to have the family as a family”

End Quote Stephen Barnett Paige's stepfather

Mrs Carpenter wants to continue the journeys to New Zealand in order to highlight Paige's plight in the hope that the authorities will reconsider the case.

The flight can take up to 26 hours with one stopover, and costs about £3,500 for Paige, her mother and her stepfather.

"We don't get much sleep on the plane," said Mrs Carpenter.

"Paige cat-nap sleeps anyway, but we get very, very exhausted.

"She didn't ask for this.

"It's a strain on the whole family, but it's the kids that are saying 'you've got to do it Mum, you've got to do it for Paige'."

Paige's stepfather Stephen Barnett, 47, said: "The only thing we want to do is improve Paige's life and to have the family as a family."

The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in New Zealand provides the assistance to Paige and is governed by the Accident Compensation Act.

In a statement the corporation said it had used its discretion to approve overseas attendant care payments for Paige and wanted to extend the discretionary payments beyond February.

"Legislation does not enable us to approve overseas attendant care on a permanent basis," the statement said.

"However, ACC is committed to working with Paige's family to consider ongoing solutions that will provide the family with peace of mind regarding the duration of overseas care approved."

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