I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2014. The condition affects almost all aspects of my life. I have difficulties with my balance, vision and memory. I can no longer do all of the things I used to be able to; what I can still do has to be done more slowly and with more planning involved.
Shortly after receiving my diagnosis, I applied to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and was devastated to learn I didn’t qualify. The assessor had obviously not read my medical reports or any of the supporting documents I had sent, as she wasn’t even aware that I have MS.
When I saw my report, I was shocked to see I’d been marked down for being able to shake the assessor’s hand and for carrying a handbag! I asked the DWP to look again at this decision, but they maintained I wasn’t eligible for PIP. So I kept fighting and submitted an appeal. In September 2015 a tribunal panel decided that I should in fact get PIP. They awarded me the standard rate for daily living and higher rate for mobility. For almost a whole year I had no income while I was appealing this decision, as I had had to give up work due to my MS. My health suffered in that time, as stress makes my symptoms worse.
The money I get from PIP helps me with day-to-day living, and to travel to my hospital appointments. Without PIP I wouldn’t have any independence at all. That’s why I joined the MS Society’s installation of ‘PIPville’ at Westminster today, and helped to deliver a petition to the Department for Work and Pensions, signed by more than 36,000 people, asking the Government to scrap the PIP 20 metres rule.
Under this rule people who can walk a step over 20 metres are not qualifying for the right level of support. This has led to people losing their Motability cars, and for some, they’ve effectively been left trapped them in their own homes. I want to let the Government know about the hurt this rule is causing for people like me. ‘PIPville’ represents the 9,400 people with MS who have lost out on mobility support because of the ridiculous 20 metre rule.
MS is unpredictable and different for everyone, and it’s wrong that I was made to feel like a liar about my condition when I asked for help. And it’s wrong that so many others with MS are losing support. Having MS is hard enough – it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense. I had to fight to keep my independence, and I’m fighting now so others can get the support they need to live independently. PIP has to change and that should start with the Government scrapping the 20 metre rule.