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Thousands of long Covid sufferers denied access to disability support despite being unable to work

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Thousands of people with long Covid have been told they do not qualify for disability support despite many being unable to work due to debilitating and ongoing side effects. Around 300,000 people in Britain have long Covid, with many struggling to access and apply for the government’s disability scheme.

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Data from January shows that only 937 people with the condition successfully claimed Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which entitles them to £150 a week. Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that in March 322,000 people with long Covid had been limited “a lot”.

According to politicians and campaign groups not enough has been done to remove barriers to applying for financial aid, reports The Mirror.

“A vast number of severely impaired people are simply not getting the help they need and are entitled to,” said Dr Jo House, a spokesperson for Long Covid Support. But figures from last month show that 322,000 people had been limited “a lot” by long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics. Some 172,000 of these said they had struggled every day for the past 12 months.

Jenny Ceolta-Smith, of Long Covid Support’s employment group, said there were “multiple barriers in place” when applying for the disability benefit. “They might be able to perform a one off activity, but then not do so later in the day,” she said.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said the right to statutory sick pay for long Covid sufferers should be reinstated, adding that the number of people successfully claiming PIP was “just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to those who need financial support to live with the condition”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it was unable to provide a figure for how many people with long Covid had applied for PIP. The number has risen month on month since March 2021, when the benefits scheme first acknowledged the condition as a disability.

But since March 2021, just 1,584 people with long Covid have been assessed by the PIP programme. Out of these, 937 are currently receiving benefits, while the remaining 647 are awaiting final clearance from the government, have been rejected, or are appealing against the outcome of their application.

Layla Moran MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said the low number of successful claimants over the past 12 months “suggests the government is failing to address the impact of long Covid both on people’s health and the UK workforce”. She called on ministers to “review current financial support available to people who are, as a result [of long Covid], losing their jobs and income”.

A government spokesperson said: “For anyone with a disability or long-term health condition, including long Covid, there is a strong financial safety net, including statutory sick pay, ESA and universal credit. PIP is available to people with long-term health conditions or disabilities and is assessed on the basis of someone’s needs and not a diagnosis or condition.”

PIP is a state benefit that helps people deal with some of the extra costs associated with a long-term illness or disability. The benefit isn’t means-tested, so it doesn’t matter if you have a job or another source of income.

It was introduced in 2013 to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). There are two parts to PIP. You might be eligible for one or both components depending on your needs and how much you’re affected by your condition.

The daily living component pays up to £92.40 a week if you struggle with everyday tasks such as eating, cooking, washing and making financial decisions. The mobility competent assesses your ability to ‘plan and follow a journey’ and ‘move around’. It can pay £64.50 a week.

PIP is usually paid every four weeks, directly into your bank account. The assessment involves a series of short activities led by a health professional.

During the assessment, the assessor will also ask you questions about how your condition affects your daily life. This conversation will be based on the information that you gave on your claim form. Be prepared to give examples of what you find difficult.

They will also ask you to carry out a number of tasks based on everyday activities and your condition. You’ll be given points for each activity, based on your ability to carry out the task and how much help you need to do it.

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