Many parliamentary petitions are started, but exceedingly few reach the 100,000 signatures required to be considered for a debate in Parliament. One that did, reaching 115,000 signatures, was begun by Fibromyalgia campaigner Adrienne Lakin. It called for more funding and support for sufferers.
The well-attended debate took place on 15th January 2019 and attracted cross party support. Ms Lakin’s MP, Toby Perkins, paid tribute to her “and all the fibromyalgia campaigners who bang the drum relentlessly to ensure that sufferers’ voices are heard.”
Among the speakers was the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton, who spoke at length. She said:
“On the benefit system, I want to assure people that fibromyalgia is recognised as a disability under the 2010 Act. It is really important for people to understand that. We have heard today that no two people are affected in the same way, so it is important that we have a person-centred approach to providing support, whether that is encouraging employers to be more aware of fibromyalgia and of the reasonable adjustments they need to make to enable people to stay in work, or looking at how the benefit system supports people.”
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Work Capability Assessments
On the question of benefits, Ms Newton sought to reassure those present that medical professionals carrying out the now infamous Work Capability Assessments had received training in Fibromyalgia. However, in a recent article we took a closer look at the extent of that training, which is pitiful.
The Minister did at least, however, accept that considerably more work needed to be done and extended an invitation to campaigners to meet with her and other ministers for further talks.
Whether and to what extent the debate acts as a catalyst for more funding and support for Fibromyalgia remains to be seen. Perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath.