A young disabled woman who struggles to walk from one room to the next without becoming breathless, and has undergone numerous operations to remove tumours from her fragile body, has been stripped of her disability benefit by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Pearl Kelly, 21, has suffered from the condition neurofibromatosis for several years, which causes tumours to develop along her nerves, and is dependent on crutches to move around her home.
But despite her obvious frailties, Pearl has been told that she isn’t disabled enough to claim Personal Independent Allowance (PIP)), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance for all sick and disabled adults as part of the Government’s sweeping welfare changes.
Pearl also suffers from other health conditions, some linked to having to live with neurofibromatosis, such as problems with her spine, depression, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, vertigo and heart problems.
She first underwent her first operation to remove a tumour at just 5 years of age, and has since undergone around 20 further operations over the last 15 years.
Pearl told the Liverpool Echo: “I am an out-patient at several hospitals across Liverpool and Manchester. I have to use public transport to travel some fairly long distances.
“Sometimes my appointment might be first thing in the morning so I have to travel at peak times.
“And there are the cups of coffee and snacks while I am waiting around. Just the odd coffee and a biscuit. Although I receive another benefit I need the PIP money too.”
She continued: “I first applied in April 2015 and became eligible in March the following year. Some of the forms I had to fill out were nearly 60 pages long.
“I have found the whole process bewildeirng. I am someone that can can’t walk from one room to another without becoming short of breath. How can they say I am not eligible?”
Pearl claims she was bullied at school because of her health conditions, but through hard work and determination still managed to secure 11 GCSEs at grade C or above.
“I hated school because of the bullying”, she said. “I was picked on because I was different. In the end though I just felt sorry for the bullies because they were so ignorant.”
She continued: “I need this money and I think I am entitled to it. I get out of breath walking from one room to another and cannot walk without crutches.
“Travelling around the North West on public transport is stressful and expensive. I need help. I am obviously hoping that the decision will be overturned at a tribunal later this year.”
Pearl has appealed against the DWP’s decision, but could face several months before her case is heard by a social security tribunal.
A DWP spokesperson said: “PIP takes a much wider look at the way a person’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis. The quality of assessments has risen year on year since 2015, but one person’s poor experience is one too many.
“We’re committed to continuously improving assessments and have announced we’re piloting the video recording of PIP assessments with a view to rolling this out widely. Under PIP 30% of claimants receive the highest rate of support, compared to 15% under DLA (Disability Living Allowance).”
The latest DWP statistics reveals that the number of people who successfully appeal against DWP PIP at tribunal has hit a new record high, with as many as 71% of tribunals ruling in the claimant’s favour – equating to around 14,805 people.
Labour MP Marie Eagle described the latest figures as an “absolute scandal”.
The Chief executive of the disability charity Scope said success rates were “going through the roof”.
They added: “The Government needs to get a grip on this situation, as both PIP and ESA appeals are still being won at alarmingly high rates.
“Disabled people rely on these financial lifelines to live independently and be part of their community. Without urgent action, vast numbers will continue to be denied this support unfairly.”
The DWP said a greater proportion of PIP claimants are awarded the highest level of support when compared to the equivalent level of support under DLA.
“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they’re entitled to”, the spokesperson added.