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Thousands sign petition launched by Bromley woman denied disability benefit

PUBLISHED: 12:30 06 December 2017

Amanda Flannery, 25, is petitioning the government to change personal independence payment's (PIP) recognition of invisible illnesses. Photo: Amanda Flannery

Amanda Flannery, 25, is petitioning the government to change personal independence payment's (PIP) recognition of invisible illnesses. Photo: Amanda Flannery

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A woman with incurable and debilitating pain is petitioning the prime minister to reform the disability benefit system for those suffering from ‘invisible’ illnesses.

Amanda Flannery suffers from depression, fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome and has been denied personal independence payment (PIP) three times.

PIP is a benefit which helps to cover the extra costs those who suffer with a long-term illness, disability or mental health condition incur.

In three weeks, more than 3,000 people have signed her petition to “reform PIP”, asserting that people with illnesses such as hers, which are not immediately apparent, are “not being treated fairly”.

The 25-year-old Basildon resident, who grew up in Anerley, said: “I am surprised. I didn’t expect to get that many signatures in such a short space of time.

“You are glad that it is not just you but at the same time sad that so many are affected.”

Amanda spoke of how her illnesses leave her with chronic, excruciating pain throughout the entire right-hand side of her body, fatigue and weak limbs.

She was forced to apply for PIP as the pain and weakness in her limbs meant she had to give up her job as an apprentice administrator at a pension firm.

The pain means she also struggles to cook and clean and a short walk around her local shopping centre requires a full day of rest to recover.

She twice completed a 35-page claim form submitted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and was assessed by private healthcare professionals ATOS in May 2017 and May 2016. But both times she was denied support.

“The physical assessment lasted no more than a minute,” she said. “Being able to lift my leg and then put it down again is not the equivalent of working a full day.

“Imagine being in pain 24/7, in your arm and leg, and trying to push through work every single day whilst on drowsy medication.”

She added: “They said that because I spoke well and didn’t break down crying during the interview I was ‘mentally stable’, when I suffer with mental health.”

She appealed the second rejection, drawing attention to a note from her neurologist stating that her prescription for depression medication is above the standard dose, but was again denied.

Demoralised by the experience, Amanda regrets that she did not continue taking her appeal to the tribunal level, an opportunity which has now passed.

But now she hopes to alter the system through alternative means – petitioning.

“There needs to be more research on these illnesses,” she said. “And more understanding among people.”

PIP was deemed “fundamentally flawed” in a report released by charity The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain last week.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to DWP revealed that in the four years since PIP started, 31 per cent (4,100) of new claims from people with MS were found to be not eligible.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis, and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs.

“At the core of PIP’s design is the principle that non-physical conditions should be given the same recognition as physical ones. Under PIP 29pc of claimants receive the highest rate of support compared to 15pc under DLA.”

You can sign the petition here and contact Amanda Flannery @AmandaLF25

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