BY CALUM FRASER
A disabled woman is on a campaign to stop what she claims is the persecution of some of the most vulnerable people in society.
West Thamesmead resident Claudette Lawrence started a petition that has gathered about 40,000 signatures urging the Government to “clamp down” on the assessment system for people claiming benefits.
The 49-year-old, who has chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as ME), has spoken with scores of people who have experienced hardship when claiming either Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Employment and Support Allowances (ESA) benefits.
Ms Lawrence, of Whinchat Road, said: “These assessments cause so much stress and pain. In a lot of cases they need to get a private letter from a GP which costs them up to £40.
“Sometimes the letter is not sufficient and people who are struggling to get by have wasted £40. “It is terrible there are people out there who are suicidal.
In the past 24 hours I have had many people contact me for help.”
The other issue Ms Lawrence has with the assessment system is the distance claimants have to travel.
She said: “The whole process is biased and people are being discriminated against.
“Time and again, sometimes every year, people have to go through the assessment process again and again. “It’s depressing and makes you feel worthless.
“Why do they keep coming back to people again and again?
If I had a chronic condition last year, I’m still going to have it this year.
“The distance they ask people to travel is also not acceptable. To attend a centre I would have to go to Romford, Wood Green or Marylebone.
I managed to convince them to come out for a home visit. “I’ve heard of other people travelling more than two hours for an assessment.”
Ms Lawrence has been campaigning for benefits rights for years and was consulted by Ed Miliband during his time as Labour leader.
In 2008, she advised ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the benefits system. But her advice was not sought when David Cameron came into power. PIP is non-means tested, non-contributory and tax-free.
It is not linked to a person’s ability to work and it is available equally to people in or out of work.
ESA payments are usually received on condition some recipients must take part in work-related activity in exchange for their payments.
A second key feature is that recipients are liable to be repeatedly probed by a government-approved nurse about their state of health.
The Department for Work and Pensions had not commented on the story at the time of going to press.