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Woman with Crohn's disease has PIP benefits cut

A woman with a debilitating condition learned her disability benefits were being cut just days after having her bowel and rectum removed.

Lauren Reed - who has Crohn's disease - discovered her personal independent payments (PIP) would be stopped after arriving home after the major surgery.

The 21-year-old from Canterbury, who needs to use a stoma bag, had been reassessed weeks before the operation by the private firm Independent Assessment Services on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Lauren Reed
Lauren Reed

She says her assessor did not even know what a stoma was so she was forced to show her the bag, which collects waste from her bowel.

In a letter which arrived the day after she was discharged from hospital, she was told she no longer qualified for the payments.

The decision has left Lauren, whose 21-year-old partner is her full-time carer, £220 short each month at a time when her surgeon has advised her not to work.

She says the last few weeks have been “traumatic”.

“It’s made me feel absolutely awful,” she said.

“One decision has had such a big effect on my life.

“I can’t get out, so I’m reliant on my employment support allowance (ESA) and my PIP. Every bit of money is accounted for.

“My bag leaks all the time. My wounds are still healing, and are still open. I can’t walk for that long. I’m constantly tired.

Lauren's stoma bag
Lauren's stoma bag

“How can they say that I’m totally fine, when they’re not with me 24/7?”

Lauren says her assessors knew little about her debilitating condition, which causes inflammation of the digestive system, and failed to carry out a physical examination.

“They asked me questions that had nothing to do with my illness,” she said.

“They were absolutely pointless questions.

“I was in there for about an hour. [My assessor] didn’t even know what a stoma was, which was quite embarrassing, because it meant I had to show her.

“Trying to explain your symptoms to someone that knows nothing about Crohn’s disease is very hard.

“They need health professionals that understand illnesses like mine to do the assessments.”

Having found out last week that an appeal to the DWP to reconsider the decision has been unsuccessful, Lauren now fears she may need to return to her job as a waitress to cover expenses such as antibiotic prescriptions and her stoma, which costs £69 every three weeks.

"They asked me questions that had nothing to do with my illness" - Lauren Reed

PIP is an allowance which is designed to cover the costs associated with a person’s disability.

“I’m still healing from the operation, and I’ve still got open wounds,” Lauren said.

“Waitressing is hard because you are carrying heavy things, and I’m tired constantly.

“But I can’t live with just ESA. Even if it makes me ill, I’m going to have to go back to work.”

A spokesman for DWP says it is “committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support that they need”.

“Decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant at the time, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist,” they said.

“All claimants have the right to appeal and can present further evidence to support their claim as part of this.”

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