The disability benefit assessments introduced by the UK Government are actually costing more than they are saving according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
New MS Society research suggests that the £83.3m saving in benefits payments over three years is outweighed by costs of £92.7m as people lose their mobility vehicles and cannot get to work, plus additional medical care needed due to the stress of losing benefits, jobs and care, plus the ordeal of a lengthy appeals process.
The biggest issue for MS sufferers is the Government’s 20 metre rule - if a person can walk one step over 20m they don’t need the highest rate mobility component. This is likely to see one in six MS sufferers lose out on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - losing their mobility cars and leaving them trapped at home unable to work.
Barbara Hogarth from Coldstream has been living with MS for 26 years and was given Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and an indefinite award for the highest mobility and lowest care. That all changed in 2017 when she was reassessed for PIP and was downgraded to the lowest standard rate for mobility and no care. It took her six months to successfully appeal and be returned to the same level of support she had received on DLA. However, she will be reassessed again after three years.
Barbara said: “The assessor spent more time looking at his computer screen than me. All he seemed to want to do was tick boxes. If I said I could do something then the box got ticked, but I didn’t get the chance to explain anything further.
“My statements and substantial supporting medical evidence were largely disregarded. I supplied contact details for my GP and consultant, and provided letters and reports from my optician and other therapists. But I couldn’t see how these were taken into account.
“Looking at my report, I had virtually been called a liar. Nothing in the report matched up to reality.
“I don’t see how this system is helping anybody, when it has no reflection on a person’s mental or physical health. All it does is tell you whether you deserve money or not. It’s so demeaning. I have no faith in the assessment process but I’m trapped in it with no other means of essential support.”
The MS Society’s MS: Enough campaign, is urging Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd to scrap the 20m rule and agree to consult on a new measure of mobility support. www.mssociety.org.uk/scrap-pip-20m