Britain’s benefits system is harming the health of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), according to a leading UK charity.
Research by the Multiple Sclerosis Society found that nearly half (48 per cent) of MS sufferers feel that ‘fitness for work’ tests for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) caused their condition to deteriorate.
And 38 per cent who had a face-to-face assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) feel the same, the charity says.
Over half of those surveyed (57 per cent) by the MS Society said that benefits assessments do not accurately determine the impact of their MS.
The MS society says assessments “need to take into account the fluctuating and hidden symptoms of MS and their impact accurately”.
Adding, they should also “take adequate account of evidence provided by experienced professionals who understand the person’s condition”.
According to the research, benefits changes have led to 9 per cent of people with MS cutting back on medical treatment or prescriptions.
Worryingly, 32 per cent have been forced to cut back on food and 41 per cent have cut down on socialising with family and friends.
28 per cent had cut back on transport costs and 9 per cent have reduced spending on attending vital hospital appointments.
The MS Society has called on the Government to undertake “a full impact assessment” before making any further changes to disability benefits.
Ministers should also consider how further cuts to disability benefits could have “knock on effects on other areas of public spending such as health and social care”, the charity says.
People with MS should be “able to rely on support when they need it, without unnecessary burden or constant fear of having it taken away”.
Chief Executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Having MS is enough. It should not be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense for people living with the condition.
“Lack of understanding of the condition and failure to use information from medical professionals is causing stress or contributing to relapses and deteriorating health.
“This is counterintuitive to a system designed to support people with disabilities.
“At their best, these benefits can enable people to work for longer, live rich, independent family lives and participate fully in society.
“The Government needs to recognise the reality of living with MS and make basic, common sense changes, fast.”
The MS Society is launching a new campaign – MS: Enough: Make welfare make sense – calling on the UK Government to improve the support available for people with MS.
Michelle Mitchell said: “Living with a chronic, disabling, neurological condition such as MS is hard – it is also expensive.
“There are often substantial extra costs which add an average of £200 a week to the household bills.
“Steps must be taken to make sure the disability benefits system is working for those who rely on it or people with MS will continue to struggle.”
The MS Society surveyed nearly 1,800 people with the condition. Of those surveyed, 242 had had an assessment for ESA and 269 had had a face-to-face assessment for PIP.