A girl left severely disabled at birth is being forced to fly to the other side of the world every month in a ‘soul destroying’ journey to qualify for medical compensation. Paige Carpenter was born in New Zealand 14 years ago but suffered horrific brain damage when she was starved of oxygen. The authorities ruled that mistakes made by a midwife were to blame and Paige was handed a massive payout package to provide care for the rest of her life. When her English mother Donna decided to return home to live in the UK in June 2010 the compensation money was halted.
But Mrs Carpenter found a loophole in the legislation which means so long as Paige is present in New Zealand for just 24 hours once a month she still qualifies for the £1,000-per week compensation. Payments started in Jan 2011 as soon as they landed
Paige has now endured 11 round-the-world trips of 23,000 miles from her home in Great Bentley, Essex – the equivalent of flying further than the Moon which is 238,855 miles away.
Amazingly, when the teenager, her mother and her mother’s partner land – they are automatically registered as having been in the country – meaning they often return after just one night’s stay at an airport hotel.
Sadly nearly all of the money, which should be for wheelchair bound Paige’s medical care, is instead spent on air fares and travel costs.
Donna, 43, and her husband, Stephen Barnett, 47, have to accompany the teenager on the exhausting trips which often involve a journey time of up to 40 hours to get out there.
But Mrs Carpenter is determined to continue with the journeys in a bid to highlight Paige’s plight and force the authorities in New Zealand to back down and just make the compensation payments without the gruelling condition attached.
She fumed: ‘Paige did not ask for this life and all this is about is giving her the care she so desperately needs.
‘It’s not so that we can be wealthy – we are not living a life of luxury from this money – it’s about providing round-the-clock care for her.’
Paige’s conditions mean she is wheelchair-bound and she is only able to speak a handful of words. Mrs Carpenter – a former shop manager – is now Paige’s full-time carer.
She added: ‘I don’t know how long we are going to be able to carry on doing the trips – they are soul destroying. I am in tears every time we get onto the plane.
‘We have to have Paige lying across our laps because she is not able to sit upright.
‘I was ready to quit after the first few journeys we made but Paige’s brothers and sisters encouraged me to carry on, reminding me that we are doing this for her future, hopefully so she will still be provided for in years to come when we are no longer alive.’
Financial support is restricted for people once they leave New Zealand, meaning the only way that Paige can get her full entitlement is by moving back out there.
Mrs Carpenter, a mother of six, said: ‘It is heart-wrenching for us. Paige needs 24/7 care and it is very difficult.
‘We really do want to get the best care we can for her and improve the quality of her life but they are making it extremely difficult.
‘Why should we have to be living in New Zealand in order to get the money she is entitled to? All of our support network is now here in England and moving back to New Zealand is simply not an option.’
Paige was born at home in New Zealand but suffered perinatal hypoxia – meaning her brain was starved of oxygen at the critical time.
The teenager, who can barely speak, also suffers from cerebral palsy and has a twisted spine.
Mrs Carpenter hopes one day to be able to take her daughter to America for an operation to straighten it and relieve the pain she constantly suffers.
The mother-of-six says she has been constantly having to battle the authorities in order to get the compensation Paige is due.
She added: ‘She is a fighter, so I am going to keep fighting for her. We were told she would never speak, but she recently started to say a few words.
‘When she said ‘mummy, I love you’ it was one of the happiest moments in my whole life.’
Mrs Carpenter has five other children – Lauren, 21, Tyler, 19, Madison, 16, Jake, 11 and Aiden, seven.
Lauren takes responsibility for looking after her younger siblings when her mother and husband, a carpenter, head to New Zealand.
The compensation money – to provide ‘attendant care’ stopped in July 2011 and Mrs Carpenter’s New Zealand lawyer argued there was ‘no logical reason’ why Paige should not receive the same payment in the UK but the case was dismissed.
A spokesman for New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Commission said he was unable to comment on individual cases.
He said: ‘We provide a range of support for people with accident-related injuries. However, the Accident Compensation Act restricts the support to clients once they leave New Zealand.’
There is discretion for the ACC to fund people living overseas, but factors such as cost and whether the care can be monitored are taken into account.