Fear over cuts to disabled welfare

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More and more disabled people are being left without any financial support because of new harsher Government assessments – a Dales–based charity claims.

Vasculitis UK, which is based in Winster, has seen an increase in the number of people calling its helpline for advice after having their benefits axed.

The charity supports people suffering from vasculitis, a rare group of diseases that attack blood vessels.

John Mills, chairman of the Vasculitis UK, puts the increase down to the Government’s crack down on the number of people falsely claiming incapacity benefit.

“Recently of course the Government has clamped down on people claiming benefits, but the trouble is the really genuine people who desperately need the support get caught up in it,” he explained.

John, who was diagnosed with the condition himself in 2001, claimed that often people are not assessed by qualified medical personnel.

“If they are lucky it will be a nurse, they might not even be qualified,” he said.

“When you have got a rare illness like vasculitis that perhaps even an ordinary GP doesn’t know about, you’re not going to expect somebody who has only very basic medical knowledge to understand the disease.

“People who have been getting benefits suddenly get a letter saying ‘your benefits are being stopped as of now’.”

The condition is so rare that it often goes undiagnosed for long periods of time, and can lead to a variety debilitating problems such as the loss of eyesight, digits or even limbs.

John said he tended to advise those who had their benefits stopped to appeal against the decision.

“In seven out of ten cases the appeal is successful,” he added.

“Throughout this it is very stressful for them however.

“They often have to travel to some court to go through the assessment and appeal, and if you’re chronically ill it is that much more difficult than for healthy people.”

Further information about Vasculitis UK is available by visiting the charity’s website, www.vasculitis.org.uk

For support and advice on issues relating to vasculitis, you can call the charity on 01629 650549 or alternatively email secretary@vasculitis.org.uk