Savage Tory welfare changes for sick and disabled people have effectively robbed people with Multiple Sclerosis of millions of pounds a year in vital benefit payments, new figures reveal.
Figures obtained by the MS Society, through a freedom of information request sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), reveal that MS sufferers moved from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) system have lost out on at least £6 million a year.
PIP was introduced in 2013 to replace DLA as the main benefit for sick and disabled people. Both DLA and PIP are designed to help claimants cover at least some of the additional costs associated with living with a long-term illness or disability, and can be claimed regardless of income or employment status.
DWP officials told the MS Society that between October 2013 and October 2016 almost one in three people (2,600) with MS who had previously received the highest rate mobility component of DLA had their payments cut after being reassessed for PIP.
The freedom of information request also discovered that nearly a quarter (800) who received the highest rate for the care component of DLA had their payments cut after reassessment for PIP.
Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “These staggering figures show how PIP is failing some people with MS who need the highest level of support.
“It doesn’t make sense that people are losing money they once qualified for, when they are living with a progressive condition.”
The nationwide charity expressed concerns that too many people are being denied the benefits they are entitled to, adding that people with MS are often not given the chance to properly explain what it’s really like to live with the condition.
They added that recent changes to PIP are making it even more difficult for people to quality for the highest level of support.
Before those changes, claimants would not be be eligible for the highest level of support if they could walk more than 50 metres. However, this has now been reduced to just 20 metres.
The MS Society is calling on the UK government to urgently fix what they describe as a “broken system”, and ensure PIP assessments reflect the realities of living with MS.
A DWP spokesman said: “Under PIP 36% more Multiple Sclerosis claimants receive the highest rate of support than under DLA.
“We recognise symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis can fluctuate over time, and regular reassessments mean we can ensure people with degenerative conditions get the help they need as their condition changes.
“Assessments consider illnesses which affect sufferers during the majority of days in a year, rather than just on someone’s ‘best days’ or assessing ability on a single day.”