Long Covid-sufferer refused disability benefit despite being unable to walk or breathe
A former singer who has been left unable to work due to Long Covid has been refused disability benefits and says her life has been “ripped apart”.
Shereen Smith had worked as a wedding singer and had been about to launch a new business as a cake-maker when she was struck down by the virus in March last year.
But the 39-year-old has been left with ongoing health issues, including breathing problems, muscle pain, and digestive problems and is now unable to work.
She tried to claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits – available through the Department for Work and Pensions for people who need help with extra costs associated with long-term physical or mental disabilities – yet was refused, reports the Daily Record.
“It’s upsetting because, even though I keep telling them about how debilitating my symptoms are, I get a letter back saying they’re still not prepared to give me it. I am speaking to Citizens Advice about how to appeal,” Shereen explained.
The Covid survivor said her life has been “ripped apart” since she fell ill with the illness for which victims are being “dismissed, disregarded, mocked and patronised”.
“For me, it attacked my lungs the worst, I think, because I have had respiratory problems in the past,” Shereen added.
“I had days when I struggled so hard to breathe, it felt like I was suffocating. One time, one of my ribs came out of place but I was able to pop it back in myself.
“I’ve been left with lots of different symptoms including respiratory problems, heart palpitations, brain fog, an intense burning feeling in my lungs, sore muscles, hair loss, face tingles and digestive issues.
“I am also extremely weak and struggle to lift my arms so things like washing my hair and cooking meals are difficult.
“Because I haven’t been eating well, I have lost two stone and the way I have been feeling has left me with a poor appetite.
“There are so many things I can’t do any more and it gets me down. I used to like walking but now I can’t walk for very long at all without getting breathless.
“I also used to keep myself fit by doing strength training with body weights, but I couldn’t even manage the lightest weight these days.”
Shereen’s medication includes strong painkillers, anti-inflammatories and reflux tablets.
As well as suffering physically from Long Covid, her illness has had an impact on her mental health too. But despite all this she was turned down for PIP.
“I live on my own so it can be very lonely and isolating at times, but I try to stay positive as I know there are a lot of people suffering even worse Long Covid symptoms than me,” she said.
“Singing is my passion so not being able to do that anymore is really upsetting. I used to be a wedding singer and I’d love to get back into performing again, but at the moment it’s just too sore to try.”
Shereen has been referred to a pain clinic, a respiratory clinic and is waiting to see an orthopaedic therapist for physiotherapy.
In a bid to help others suffering from Long Covid, Shereen set up her own online support group and has discovered many sufferers feel they’re not believed.
“Too many people are saying they feel dismissed and disregarded and some have even felt mocked and patronised when they have asked for help. People are being told by their GPs, ‘Give it time, you’ll get better.’ But with Long Covid, it doesn’t work like that as the symptoms are so wide-ranging and go on for months with no guarantee of when they will end,” she said.
Union leaders are calling for Long Covid victims to be given new rights to have the condition recognised as a disability. The Scottish Trades Union Congress has urged ministers to classify the condition as an occupational disease. This would entitle employees and their families to compensation if they contracted the virus at work.
The DWP said: “There is a strong financial safety net for anyone who has a long-term health condition, including Long Covid, or a disability and needs support.
“This includes Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit and ESA, and PIP if they have daily living or mobility needs for three months and are expected to have these for at least another nine months.”