One in ten people with multiple sclerosis in the UK could face cuts in government disability benefit payments, according to new figures published by the country’s MS Society.
The figures reveal the severe extent of benefits cuts for people living with MS. And, I would say that it is highly likely that people living with other disabilities could be hit to the same degree.
The society, the UK’s largest MS charity, estimates that more than a thousand people with MS have already had their benefits downgraded since the phased introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began to replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
The society said: “Of those eligible for DLA, 93% of people with MS received the highest rate of mobility support. But of the 4,349 who have so far been moved over to PIP, only 70% have received the same rate.
“With more than 80% of people on DLA still to be moved onto PIP, we’re concerned that up to 10,000 people with MS could eventually lose access to the highest rate of mobility support.”
MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell (pictured, left) 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 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.”
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, under DLA, 50 metres was considered to be the rule of thumb for entitlement to the higher rate.
“Changes to the eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP were introduced with no evidence to show why it was reduced. These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face.
“Having a condition like MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Mitchell.
She’s absolutely right, of course, and it is good to see the MS Society making a stand and calling for change. Not that the current government will take any notice.