Photo: Bethen's head and shoulders against a racetrack

It was like being held to ransom

I applied for PIP in October 2014. I was asked to go to an assessment centre in Chelmsford, more than 40 miles from where I live.

MS has an effect on almost all aspects of my life. I have difficulties with my balance, vision and memory. I experience vertigo and paraesthesia (pins and needles sensation) on my left arm and leg, and have extreme fatigue. I can no longer do all the things I used to be able to. And what I can still do has to be done more slowly and with more planning involved.

Marked down for shaking my assessor's hand

The assessor wasn’t aware that I had MS and had obviously not read my medical reports or any of the supporting documents I had sent.

I was devastated when I got the letter saying I didn’t qualify for PIP. When I saw my report, I was shocked to see I’d been marked down for being able to shake the assessor's hand and for carrying a handbag!

I was made to feel like a liar

I asked the DWP to look again at this decision, but they maintained I wasn’t eligible for PIP. So I submitted an appeal and had to go to a tribunal hearing in September 2015. The panel decided I could get the standard rate for daily living and higher rate for mobility.

For the 11 months it took to get this decision, I had no income. My health definitely suffered in that time, both physically and psychologically, as stress makes my symptoms worse. I was made to feel like a liar about my condition. It was like I was being held to ransom and it was very demoralising.

Without PIP I wouldn’t have any independence at all. The money helps me with day to day living, and to travel to my hospital appointments.

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