Incurable illness sufferers devastated by Tory benefits cut

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​Health and jobs suffer as Tory welfare changes cause misery

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25th August 2016 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

People living with an incurable condition could have their lives devastated by losing out on a vital benefits payment.

A charity says that Tory welfare reforms mean thousands of multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers face missing out on the highest rate of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – even though they previously qualified for the equivalent under the old system.

The MS Society says this could have a “devastating” impact on peoples’ lives.

One in ten MS sufferers throughout the UK could be affected, the charity said.

Changes to disability benefits assessments have had a devastating impact on the lives of too many people living with MS

It’s estimated that more than 1,000 people with MS have already had their benefits downgraded since the government introduced PIP to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Under DLA, 93% of people with MS who received the benefit were awarded the highest rate of the mobility component. But of the 4,349 who have so far been moved over to and awarded PIP, only 70% have received the equivalent rate. 

MS is an incurable, progressive and debilitating condition. For many people living with MS, the impact of their condition is likely to get worse over time, not improve.

With more than 80% of people on DLA still to be moved onto PIP, the MS Society anticipates that up to 10% of the 100,000 people living with MS in the UK could eventually lose access to the enhanced rate of mobility. 

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society, said: “Changes to disability benefits assessments have already had a devastating impact on the lives of too many people living with MS.

“It’s absurd that those who were once deemed to be in need of this crucial support now face having it reduced or taken away. We’re deeply concerned by the staggering figures of how many could lose out. 

“Living with a neurological condition like MS can cost up to an additional £200 a week. People with MS have told us financial support from disability benefits is vitally important for them - many of those who use it for a Motability vehicle or electric wheelchair say they rely on it to continue to be independent, travel to work or medical appointments, or pick their children up from school.”

Tightening of the eligibility criteria under PIP means that more people with MS stand to lose this support.

Under PIP, if someone can walk more than 20 metres, even with walking aids, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of support. Previously, 50 metres was often considered to be the rule of thumb for entitlement to the higher rate under DLA.

Mitchell continued: “Changes to the eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP were introduced with no evidence to show why it should be reduced. These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face. Having a disability like MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense.”

The MS Society is encouraging people with MS to share their experiences about PIP to the Government’s second independent review, via its website.

A spokesperson for DWP said: “There are now more people on the Motability scheme than before PIP was introduced and 23% of PIP claimants are now receiving the highest rate of support, compared to 15% under DLA.

"Decisions on PIP are made based on the information provided by the claimant and their GP and claimants can appeal a decision. Anyone leaving the Motability Scheme is eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000 to help meet their needs.”

"I had to give up my Motability car - and it's affecting my health and my job"

David Trotter, a 32-year-old IT worker from Midlothian, was forced to hand back his Motability car earlier this year after being moved onto PIP.

He was diagnosed with MS 11 years ago and started receiving DLA two years later. 

The payments helped him with the day-to-day extra costs of living with a disability, as well as allowed him to get a Motability car.

But after an assessment for PIP in March, it was decided he no longer qualifies for the higher rate of mobility, despite having a chronic, disabling condition which badly affects his ability to walk.

Since having his car taken away, David has been unable to travel to hospital appointments, his job (which is 15 miles away), the shops, and generally to get out and about. 

He says the combination of buses and trains is more than he can physically cope with: “My nearest bus stop is 150 metres away, but they’ve said I can walk no further than 50 metres. I don’t quite understand what they want me to do.

“This new benefit has ironically taken "personal independence" away from people like myself and will have an effect on many people with MS for years to come.

“I have already started to feel that confidence I have built up over the years slip away from me, and trying to deal with the mental aspect of this is proving to be extremely difficult.”

David is challenging the decision and his appeal will be heard in  Edinburgh next month.