16/10/2017 00:06 BST

PIP Unfairly Penalising People With Epilepsy, Leading Charity Warns

'I never know when I’m not going to be able to do stuff, I have no control'.

People with epilepsy are being put at risk by changes to disability benefits which see people with the condition more likely to be refused financial help than those with other ailments, a leading charity has warned.

Epilepsy Action said the move to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) has seen some people with the condition lose hundreds of pounds in support payments practically overnight.

And it said figures showed almost two-thirds of people with epilepsy who previously received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) had their award denied or downgraded following a reassessment for PIP. 

Freelance journalist Louise Bolotin says she lost hundreds of pounds in support payments when moving to PIP

Louise Bolotin, 55, from Manchester, lost £307 a month overnight when she was reassessed as part of a transfer from DLA to PIP.

Bolotin, a self-employed freelance journalist and proof-reader, has tonic-clonic and focal seizures which can affect her up to three times a week.

The condition leaves her dizzy and exhausted.

“The seizures can happen at any time. I never know when I’m not going to be able to do stuff, I have no control,” she said.

“When a tonic-clonic seizure happens, I can’t walk or even get out of bed for 24 hours.

“Even getting from the bed to the bathroom is hard.

“The DLA enabled me to pay for taxis and takeaways during times like these. It also paid for a cleaner.

“My medications leave me so tired that I am unable to clean for myself. If I could, I would.”

The charity is calling for changes to the PIP system to better cope with those living with complex needs.

Epilepsy Action chief executive Philip Lee said: “Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition which can severely impact on all aspects of daily life.

“Yet the current system is failing to recognise the complex needs of people with epilepsy.

“PIP is supposed to be helping people with disabilities to live more independent lives and yet ironically they are being denied the very independence they deserve.

“We are hearing increasingly concerning stories from people who say their safety and day-to-day living are being negatively impacted.

“Their physical and mental health are also being affected. Some people have even told us they feel suicidal. The current system needs to change.

“If it doesn’t, it will continue to have more devastating effects on people with epilepsy.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions, which is why we introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system.

“PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s disability or health condition, such as epilepsy, impacts them on a daily basis.

“Under PIP 29% of claimants receive the highest rate of support compared to 15% under DLA.”