Newly-diagnosed with MS are forced out of work





A branch of jobcentreplus, part of the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions, where people who are out of work register to gain unemployment benefits.


Some people with MS somehow have the ability to carry on working, and I have nothing but admiration for them. In reality, though, it is more to do with how MS affects them individually than any intention to ‘never give up’.

Following my diagnosis, I was able to continue working for another 4½ years before I really had to admit defeat. Even then, I could have continued to write from home but newspaper budgets were being trimmed back and the money to pay a freelance journalist just wasn’t there.

Not being able to work used to make me feel guilty, as if I had just given up for the sake of it, but not now. And that is because half the people living with MS in the UK, who aren’t currently employed, were forced to stop working within just three years of their diagnosis according to a report released last week.

The MS International Federation’s (MSIF) Global Employment Report 2016 also claims fatigue, cognitive impairment and mobility issues are the most common symptoms forcing people with MS to stop working. In my case, reduced mobility was the key problem.

A quarter of the people surveyed in the UK who weren’t working said they’d given up their job within a year of their diagnosis. Another 26% of that group said they’d stopped working within three years. A previous study reported 80% of people with MS had left employment within 15 years of being diagnosed.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the UK’s Multiple Sclerosis Society, said: “Lots of people have told us how they’ve been unable to return to work because they didn’t get the right support.

“Similarly, many have said they didn’t receive the support they needed while in work, or have even faced discrimination because of their condition. If employers are able to offer reasonable adjustments –- such as flexible or reduced hours – it could help thousands more people stay in work.”

There is understanding here for those who have been unable to return to work. Like them, I tried to find more suitable work after leaving my last job. I did well, reaching shortlists, until the medical questions were reached; then another candidate was always ‘more suitable’. On the other hand, if an Equal Opportunities form accompanied the application form, even a first interview was never offered. It was then that an adviser at the local jobcentreplus (government employment office) suggested I claim disability benefit instead of trying to work.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for MS is looking into whether people with MS have the support they need to stay in, or get back into, work. It has been gathering evidence from people with MS and will be making recommendations in autumn 2016.

The MSIF is a worldwide network of MS organisations. It surveyed more than 12,000 people in 93 countries to compile the global report.




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