In amongst all the Brexit chaos, it is important that we, as MPs remember that our constituents continue to need our help and support with other important matters as well. That is why I was very pleased to participate in a debate on fibromyalgia this week.
Whilst it is estimated that up to 2 million people in the UK are affected by fibromyalgia, it remains the case that this condition is often misunderstood.
Those who live with the condition often report feeling as if they are drowning in despair. It is a truly debilitating condition and must be treated and recognised as such for those seeking support from our welfare system. Whilst it is recognised and treated as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, consultations undertaken by the Scottish Government show that current PIP assessments carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions - DWP are simply not fit for purpose for those with fluctuating conditions such as fibromyalgia. Where conditions involve symptoms that fluctuate and vary, assessment must be flexible to take account of that. Unfortunately, disability assessments in the current UK welfare system are tick-box exercises, which are completely unsuitable for the assessment of complex, fluctuating and distressing conditions.
We need a welfare system that fully understands what those with this condition endure every single day as they struggle with everyday tasks that the rest of us take for granted.
I pay tribute to the very important self-help groups in North Ayrshire and Arran, and across Scotland, such as Fibromyalgia Friends Scotland, and FFU-Scotland CIC, which help and support sufferers of this complex condition and do such useful work in increasing understanding of the effects of this disease.