It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. I congratulate Bill Grant on securing this debate and on his excellent and informative speech. Several constituents requested that I attend this debate, but I was particularly encouraged to be here by Danielle Swinney. Danielle suffers badly with ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes the vertebrae in the spine to fuse. Despite being in constant crippling pain, Danielle works full-time in a pressurised job as an accountant.
Danielle told me how her condition affects her. It differs from day to day, but every day she sets her alarm for 4 am, two hours before she needs to get up, because her joints and back are so stiff that she has trouble moving first thing in the morning. It takes her an hour to get to work. Once she is there, she works from 8 am until 4.30 pm, and some days even longer. None of that helps with the symptomatic chronic fatigue she experiences, like so many others with arthritis. Danielle wants to work, however, and like everyone she needs to work, but she says that some days are so hard that even just to put on her own socks and shoes is a problem.
Danielle is just 25 years old. I salute her for her determination, her professionalism in her work and her frankness in talking about her condition. On her behalf, I ask the Minister to ensure that the Government do more to make employers aware of the effects of arthritis and to ensure that courageous people such as Danielle, who puts many of us to shame, can get into and be supported to remain in work. People with arthritis do not want their condition to keep them out of employment, and we owe it to them to make sure it does not.