I'm struggling to cope, says Yorkshire Coast woman with chronic fibromyalgia who has had PIPs benefits stopped
A young woman with a chronic pain condition says benefits bosses have taken away the money that was keeping her well.
Sophie Steward, 27, was using her Personal Indepence Payments (PIPs) to pay for treatments unavailable from the NHS which she says helped her manage her fibromyalgia.
The condition means she can be in constant pain, exhausted and unable to stand for long.
But thanks to alternative medicines and therapies, Sophie was studying for a masters degree in wildlife conservation and managing to work 15 hours a week in McDonald’s.
That was until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided that she no longer qualified for any PIPs, which are provided to help with some of the extra costs of a long term ill-health or disability.
“I have been struggling to cope ever since,” said Sophie, of Bridlington.
“I began overworking myself to make up for the shortfall in money, until I became too sick to work.
“I spent two months off sick and now can only work seven hours a week, spread throughout the week, and I’m beginning to deteriorate again.”
Sophie was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2015, while she was studying Bioveterinary Science at Lincoln University.
She was turned down for PIPs when she first applied but appealed the decision and a tribunal ruled she should receive the money.
Through research, Sophie discovered medicines and therapies that seemed to ease the symptoms of her illness, including acupuncture, reflexology, deep tissue massage and CBD oil.
When Sophie’s PIP payments came up for review and she had to re-apply, she was again told she did not qualify and, once more, appealed the decision at a tribunal – but this time a judge did not rule in her favour.
She is now starting the assessment process again.
Without the PIP money to pay for those treatments, she says her ability to work is deteriorating.
Sophie, who lives at home with her parents, said: “I want to be well enough to work properly again. Finding a career is hard when you have limited capabilities.
“I could do many of the jobs in the area in conservation if they offered shorter hours or were more flexible.
“I want to be able to leave home and start my career, but my health is holding me back.
“I am not the worst off, but I feel my story could highlight some of the major issues people face with PIPs.”
Sophie has set up a fund-raising page to pay for her treatments at https://www.gofundme.com/f/su6yr-fibromyalgia-fund.
A spokesman for DWP said: “Ms Steward has a PIP assessment booked.
“While she awaits the outcome of her claim, we are continuing to support her with Universal Credit payments.”