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AMY WINEHOUSE’s mother led campaigners at Downing Street today in their demand for urgent reform to the benefit system for people with disabilities and long-term illnesses.
Janis Winehouse, whose soul-singer daughter died aged 27 in 2011, has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) and is an ambassador for the MS Society.
More than 21,000 people signed an open letter — which she delivered to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s door — against the “deeply flawed” and complex process for claiming and being assessed for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
The benefit, which replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is supposed to help with the extra costs of a long-term health condition or disability.
But Ms Winehouse said: “Some of my closest friends have been through the exhausting and demoralising process of claiming PIP and it can’t go on any longer.
“MS is relentless, painful and disabling — and right now PIP is costing many people their independence rather than giving it to them.”
Veterinary nurse Ashley Arundale, from Leeds, has the relapsing form of MS and said the PIP process was “designed to trip us up at every turn.”
She said: “I don’t feel my assessor understood MS at all and she gave me no chance to explain the condition.
“When I eventually got the report it was full of contradictions and ignored anything I’d said that was inconvenient to her version of me.
“The report also said my condition could improve with specialist input. But treatment does not make MS better, it just stops it getting worse.
“I’m not an angry person but it makes me really angry — the total lack of knowledge was alarming.
“I thought about appealing but was afraid of making a fuss and losing the award altogether, which I know has happened to others.
“Right now I don’t feel supported by the system at all.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said that the government was spending £84 million more yearly on PIP and DLA compared to a decade ago, had introduced a minimum reassessment period and scrapped “unnecessary reviews for pensioners and those with the highest needs.”
MS Society public-affairs officer Jonathan Blades said that sufferers need “common-sense changes to PIP” — such as assessments carried out by professionals who understand MS.
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