The U.K. government has been withholding personal independence payments (PIPs) from patients with sickle cell disease because the condition does not fit government criteria for welfare, according to a report from the British news organization Sky News.
PIP payments are provided to individuals dealing with the extra costs associated with a long-term health condition or disability. Sickle cell disease is a chronic condition which can lead to unexpected medical bills due to a variety of complications, as well as limited mobility due to vaso-occlusive pain crises. However, many patients do not show any signs of illness in between these pain crises, meaning that many patients are denied PIP benefits because they appear well at the time of government benefit review.
To help address this issue, Labour Party Member of Parliament Pat McFadden, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sickle cell, is proposing reforms to the system. “I think it’s now time for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to have a proper investigation into this to see if they are getting their decision making right because we don’t believe that is happening,” he said.
According to U.K. government figures, 1,350 people with sickle cell disease are receiving PIP payments, but that is only a fraction of the estimated 15,000 people with the condition living in the U.K.
A spokesperson for the DWP addressed this discrepancy, saying, “We are committed to ensuring people get the support they are entitled to, and the proportion of people with sickle cell disease or thalassemia receiving the mobility component is around the same as the wider PIP caseload.”