People suffering with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are being forced to go through “stressful” appeals in order to prove their entitlement for disability benefits, a leading UK charity claims.
The MS Society says a lack of knowledge and training about the condition means that private benefit assessors fail to understand the devastating impact MS can have on people’s day-to-day lives.
The charity says that living with MS can cost people an extra £200 a week in additional living costs, but controversial changes to the benefits system have resulted in 8,663 people with MS having their benefits reward reduced or removed entirely.
Cruel welfare changes have seen Disability Living Allowance (DLA) replaced with Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which has much tougher eligibility criteria and has been blamed for leaving sick and disabled people without the vital support they desperately need.
The new disability benefit has faced widespread criticism, especially in regard to the proportion of claimants who are wrongly refused the benefit or denied sufficient levels of support.
Figures show that more than four in five MS sufferers succcesfully challenge decisions to cut or axe their benefit when moved from DLA to PIP.
MS Society research found that of 1,690 people with MS who had taken their cases to appeal, a staggering 1,410 were succesful in having the decisons overturned in their favour.
The overall success rate for all PIP appeals stands at a record 71%, despite promises from Government ministers to fix the broken system.
Genevieve Edwards, from the MS Society, slammed the PIP system for forcing MS sufferers to go through the “distressing and draining” appeal process to prove their entitlement.
“Too many incorrect decisions are being made because assessors often ignore invisible symptoms like pain and fatigue and fail to recognise how MS is unpredictable with fluctuating symptoms,” she said.
“Getting these decisions right in the first place would have prevented close to £1 million of taxpayers’ money being wasted.
“Instead of putting so many people through unnecessary and stressful appeals, the UK government should fix the assessment process so that it accurately captures the realities of MS.”
The charity has called on the UK Government to take urgent steps to fix the PIP assessment system, to ensure that all sick and disabled people receive the rightful level of support they are entitled to.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson told iNews: “Under PIP, 52% of people with MS receive the highest possible award, compared with 39% under the previous benefit DLA.
“Since PIP was introduced there have been 3.5 million decisions and of these, four per cent have been overturned.
“We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible and we recently announced that people with the most severe, life-long conditions will no longer have to attend regular reviews for PIP.”