Are epilepsy sufferers right to take the PIP?

Angela Crawley MP
Angela Crawley MP

The estimated 800 people in the constituency covering Carluke and Lanark who have to live with epilepsy know it’s a real disability.

But try telling the Department of Work and Pensions that.

So says the MP for Lanark and Hamilton East Angela Crawley who declared her outrage this week to learn that more than half her constituents stricken by the condition have been turned down for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), despite previously having been paid the old Disability Living Allowance.

To be precise, 54 per cent of claimants have been told they don’t qualify for PIP.

She was alerted to this statistic by the charity Epilepsy Scotland which says these figures come straight from the Department of Work and Pensions itself. It is understandably angry that what it says are the legitimate extra expenses of living with the condition are no longer being met by the state.

Ms Crawley is supporting the charity in asking the Westminster and Scottish Governments to ‘Get a Grip on PIP’.

The MP said: “Issues with PIP make up a large part of the cases that come through my office due to the number of problems that crop up when people make a claim.

“It has been hugely discouraging to see people living with epilepsy having to go through the lengthy and stressful appeals process only to be told that they should have been in receipt of PIP all along.

“The focus during face-to-face assessments is on what activities a claimant can carry out when they are not experiencing epilepsy symptoms, with no regard for the risks involved should a seizure take place, nor the after effects of a seizure.

“I fully support this Epilepsy Scotland campaign and agree that there are many improvements that could be made to the existing system which provides the valuable financial support people with epilepsy need.”

One client from Epilepsy Scotland’s welfare rights service, who does not wish to be named, outlined how the DWP system has impacted his life.

He said: “I attempted suicide as a result of the changes in my life. None of this was taken into account at the assessments I attended, which in turn increased stress levels, seizures and made things worse for me.”

Epilepsy Scotland’s policy team is currently working with the Scottish Government to try and improve the situation when PIP is administered by the Scottish Social Security Service from Spring 2021 onwards.