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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

DWP fights to hide WCA ‘under-performance’ and PIP assessments

I suppose, by now, that the ineptitude of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should not surprise me. And while that is true, what does amaze me is its ability to keep proving it – over and over again.

Right now, besides all its usual carryings on, the department is fighting two similar but separate battles. It is trying its best, or maybe its worst, to hide information from the public. Information that we have a right to know.

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Photo: The Independent

First, the DWP is trying to hide from public scrutiny a report showing how well assessment company Maximus is doing. The company carries out the controversial, and widely despised, work capability assessment (WCA) for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It also includes a look at Atos’s record as far back as 2011.

The Information Commissioner has already ordered the release of a copy of the report, which would give a breakdown of Maximus’s performance at each assessment centre. The DWP, however, is refusing to publish it and is now taking the case to an information tribunal.

Under-performance could damage reputations

The DWP claims that the information could “give a perception of under-performance’ which could ‘damage the reputation and standing of the companies involved”.

Duh, that’s the point. We all know the WCAs are a mess, this report would go towards proving just how bad it is. And the DWP as good as admits that the report could damage the standing of both Maximus and Atos.

The government ministry is therefore claiming that the report is exempt from disclosure because publishing it could damage the commercial interests of both Maximus and Atos, as well as the DWP itself.

Its second fight is to hide differences between Atos and Capita assessments, this time for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP),

This time the DWP is refusing to release training materials which would potentially highlight difference between the way that Atos and Capita carry out PIP assessments, according to Benefits and Work (B&W).

DWP refuses Freedom of Information request to hide facts

hideBack in June, Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information Act request for training and guidance materials issued by Atos to staff carrying out PIP assessments. Detailed guidance covers issues such as the way in which requests for the recording of PIP assessments are dealt with.

However, the DWP refused to release the guidance on the grounds that it was commercially confidential.

The campaigning website asked the DWP to reconsider its decision. B&W says these are not commercially confidential matters and there is a strong public interest in how PIP is administered on a day-to-day basis.

It says: “If there is a difference in how PIP is managed by different companies, then this is also a strong matter of public interest. Claimants ought to be able to be sure that their assessment is a standardised one and not one based on which company carries it out.”

The DWP, however, is having none of it. Once again, it continues to hide the documents because it considers them to be commercially confidential.

DWP says “commercially confidential” tag exempts it from FoI

The DWP said: “Release of this information would reveal to their competitors commercially sensitive information which would disadvantage IAS’s (Independent Assessment Service, the name that Atos now uses) competitive position in the marketplace.

“This in turn would prejudice the ability of the department to secure best value for the taxpayer when the contract is re-tendered. Release of this type of key financial information would also undermine the effectiveness of the department’s future dealings with IAS or other service providers.”

A B&W spokesman said: “The DWP now routinely refuses a large proportion of freedom of information requests on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. It does this without attempting to justify in any way how anyone’s interests would be threatened.

“Benefits and Work is now applying to the Information Commissioner to have the documents disclosed.”

I receive both ESA and DLA, because of disability caused by MS. As such, I cannot allow horrendous cover-ups like these to go unchallenged – and I urge you to do the same. Public interest and freedom of information must triumph over so-called ‘commercial confidentiality’.

That is just a smokescreen behind which the DWP is using to hide the facts…the facts we need and deserve to see.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Government figures prove UN’s human catastrophe verdict

Shocking new figures underline the facts behind a UN committee’s decision to describe UK welfare benefits as a human catastrophe.

And the figures come from the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Not that they were provided willingly. The MS Society forced them out by a freedom of information request.

During the first three years of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), people with MS have lost at least £6 million a year in benefits, according to the society. PIP started to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013.

The Department for Work and Pensions admitted that between October 2013 and October 2016:

  • almost one in three people (2,600) with MS who received the highest rate mobility component of DLA had their payments cut after they were reassessed for PIP.
  • nearly a quarter (800) who received the highest rate for the care component of DLA had their payments cut after being reassessed for PIP.

System doesn’t make sense

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Genevieve Edwards (pic: MS Society).

MS Society director of external affairs, Genevieve Edwards, 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.” I agree, the disease gets worse progressively, not better.

The society is rightly worried that many people no longer get what they were entitled to, and should still be able to claim. Their individual situations are no better but their care benefits have been cut.

One problem is when people are unable to explain the reality of living with MS when reassessed for PIP. And assessors, who are of dubious quality, rarely understand how unpredictable it can be.

Harder to get highest rate mobility under PIP

Additionally, it’s now also harder to qualify for the highest rate of mobility support for PIP. And that’s what you need to take advantage of the Motability car scheme.

Before the changes, under the DLA claimants wouldn’t receive the highest level of support if they could walk more than 50m. Now, under PIP, they won’t get the higher rate if they can walk more than 20m – including the use of sticks or walking aids, if needed.

Exactly what the basis of that change is, I just don’t know but it is unfair. Interestingly, on May 4 last year Baroness Altmann, then minister of state at the DWP, said in the House of Lords: “I would like to clarify what appears to be a widespread misconception regarding the differences between the mobility assessment in PIP and the mobility assessment in DLA. (See my post of May 16, 2016, Disability: There is no 20-metre rule, says minister).

“Many noble Lords have spoken of a ‘20-metre rule’, but there is no such rule. Some people believe that we have changed the assessment of a distance a claimant is able to walk from 50 metres to 20 metres. This is not the case.”

What a load of absolute codswallop.

  • Have the requirements changed between being assessed for DLA and being reassessed for PIP? YES.
  • Is the cut off for highest rate mobility payment now being unable to walk 20m instead of 50m? YES.
  • Did Baroness Altmann lie? Well by archaic tradition, she cannot be accused of lying as she made the statement in the House. She can only be guilty of “misleading the House”. It is clear, she did mislead the House.

Now, what is a non-parliamentary term for deliberately misleading the House? Let me think. Oh yes, I remember, it is LYING.

Fix this broken system, MS Society demands

The MS Society is calling on the government to urgently fix “this broken system” and ensure PIP assessments reflect the realities of living with MS. I couldn’t agree more.

“Having MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Edwards.

And so say all of us. 

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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Benefits for disabled people are in chaos, government admits delays

Introductions of two flagship benefits that affect people with disabilities are both behind schedule. The government department responsible has confirmed that the nationwide roll out is going slower than anticipated.

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Photo: The Independent.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is far behind schedule. This is the benefit brought in to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which the government thought unfit for purpose.

And the much-vaunted Universal Credit (UC) has just 540,000 recipients, that is 90% behind schedule. UC was designed to replace six other benefits. These are: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support.

As far as PIP is concerned, all existing DLA claimants should have received ‘invitations’ to claim PIP by April of this year. Well, that didn’t happen, that target is now history. Now, the aim is that all working age DLA claimants will have received their invitation letters by late 2018. And final assessments and transfers are now expected to be completed around mid-2019.

Benefits massively behind schedule

According to Benefits and Work website, there has been a huge fall in the number of DLA to PIP cases being sent to DWP’s assessment companies Atos and Capita since January of this year. So, maybe the DWP will not be able to keep to that new target either.

Roll out of UC is massively behind schedule.  It is unlikely to be completed before 2022.

Call me a cynic, if you like, but I believe that target is wildly optimistic. Most UC claimants so far have made the simplest claims, what’s going to happen when they make complex ones? Can the DWP cope?

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report, last month, and urged the government to pause the roll out of UC. This was because of major problems it is causing even the most straightforward claimants, including 57% having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The DWP, however, has dismissed the concerns of the CAB and has confirmed that the roll out of full service UC will increase from 5 areas a month to 50 areas a month from October.

Whether that will happen, though, is matter for conjecture. I have my doubts.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Disability benefit cuts are still a real risk

This week is the first of the six-week summer recess of the UK parliament, which is a great time to look at welfare benefits for people with disabilities.

Regretfully, despite more than a year passing and a new government, albeit the same party, nothing has really changed.

In April last year, I reported that the then secretary for work and pensions Stephen Crabb was about to make a statement about government plans and cuts to welfare benefits. That was after he had said that it had decided not to proceed with planned cuts. They were unpopular with the disability community and controversial within the Conservative party.

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Stephen Crabb.

A month earlier, I wrote an article headed ‘No further plans’ does NOT mean ‘no further cuts’ after Crabb spoke in the House of Commons.

He said that the government “will not be going ahead” with changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that were announced. He also said there are no further plans for welfare cuts this parliament. (Bold italics are mine).

Their words don’t always mean what you think

I warned that it did not mean PIP was safe – just that the cuts would not be going ahead in the form previously announced. And the part about ‘this parliament’, meant to take us to 2020, is now irrelevant as we have sinve had an early election and have a new parliament.

Then, on May 14, I wrote another post. It was headed ‘No further plans to cut benefits’ pledge lasts 51 days and told of new plans.

Prime minister Theresa May.

About the same time, prime minister Theresa May refused to rule out making further cuts to disability benefits. This wvas widely reported by British daily newspapers.

In March, I wrote about the meaning of the words we heard. In an article headed Don’t be fooled by government’s callous weasel words – disability benefits cuts are still planned, I reported the words of Stephen Crabb as: “We’re not going to be going ahead with these cuts to disability benefits that were proposed on budget day.

“The prime minister has confirmed that himself. I was very clear when I discussed the offer of the job this morning we were not going to go ahead with the cuts that were proposed.”

Cuts to benefits – and weasel words

I also added my own comments:

Sounds good, right? Well, err, no. The key words in the first sentence are ‘that were proposed on budget day’. Similarly, two sentences later the telling words are ‘that were proposed’.

Now, call me a cynic if you like but I have worked as a journalist, spent time in public relations and been around politicians long enough to recognise this for what it is – the use of prepared phrases, or callous weasel words, designed to trick us into thinking the cuts won’t happen.

The government is just trying to buy time to find a way to get them through in another form and without rebellion from within their own MPs.

David Gauke MP. (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

Trust me, despite what we are being led to believe, the cuts are still very much on the table

What has happened since then? Plenty, but absolutely nothing to prove me wrong or make me change my mind.

As for the current secretary of state for work and pensions, David Gauke, little has been heard, except a change to the timing of a planned increase in the retirement age.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Atos tries to escape its past though superficial rebranding

There is a new company providing assessments of people claiming government disability benefits in the UK. Well, no, there isn’t.

You see, the new name, Independent Assessment Services, is just a rebranding exercise.

True, the name is new but it is the same bad old company.  It is still Atos Healthcare but now in disguise. No doubt it hopes to escape its reputation. as Atos has been the subject of numerous allegations.

atosIts assessors have been accused of numerous, serious and harmful failings in the way they have carried out assessments. The most recent example is that one of its assessors left a disabled woman to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours. Now, Atos launched an investigation.

This was after a Disability News Service (DNS) investigation that found many cases where claimants described how assessors from both Atos and the other assessment company Capita, filed dishonest reports of face-to-face assessments.

According to DNS, Gail Ward, from disability activist Black Triangle Campaign, responded to the rebranding by accusing Atos of “trying to create a “smokescreen” to cover up its “incompetence” in carrying out assessments.

She said: “Atos can rebrand all they wish. We will still call them Atos at every opportunity.”

She stated that Atos’s actions had left many disabled people trapped in their own homes, after losing their entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with many having to return their Motability vehicles.

Many grassroots campaigners were receiving requests for help in dealing with “fabrication of facts” in Atos PIP assessment reports. This had caused many sick and disabled people “a great deal of distress”.

Her Black Triangle colleague John McArdle added: “Atos has not changed its spots and is still working as the government’s henchman.

“We see the same litany of wrongdoing reported by DNS. Fraudulent reports, and catastrophic harm being caused to disabled people.”

He said the attempt to rebrand itself as a “respectable organisation” would fail6. He added: “Atos is infamous for carrying out systematic abuse of the fundamental human rights of disabled people.

“It is a toxic brand. It is a byword for corporate wrongdoing worldwide.”

Atos defends new name

An Atos spokesman said last week: “We believe the new name better reflects the role the company undertakes on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and the assessment work the company carries out.

“The change also follows the first independent review by Paul Gray which recommended a number of changes to claimant communications.

“It was planned and implemented in consultation with a number of disability representative organisations. They are supportive and welcome the change.”

However, DNS denied that. It said: “The two disability organisations Atos said supported the name change told DNS that they did no such thing.”

Interesting!

The spokesman added that policies – and assessment procedures – remain unchanged,

Now, that is a shame, because it seems that all the problems stem from those policies and procedures.

Changing the name is not enough. It is superficial. The company needs to change how it does its work, its culture.

People who are responsible for dishonest assessments, whether individual assessors or in management, have no business being there. Heads should roll.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Protect Disability Benefits – No More Cuts

Signing petitions and adding my name to open letters is not really my thing That’s not to say that I never do, just that it has to be a cause with which I agree totally. Now, I find that I have endorsed two – and urge you to do the same.

With the general election getting ever closer, the UK’s MS Society, along with other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, is inviting you to sign an open letter to party leaders, urging them to protect disability benefits. The letter calls for no more cuts in the next UK Government. 

The consortium is a national coalition of more than 80 charities and organisations. It is standing up for more than 13 million disabled people in the UK, who spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. That’s #13millionlives.

When the MS Society asked what issues matter at this election, hundreds made contact, one issue that stood out above all others – no more cuts to disability benefits.

The society’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Financial support is vital for people with MS to live independent lives and participate fully in society.

“We have a crucial opportunity to make our voice heard before the election. We’re urging party leaders to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next Parliament.”

I have added my name, will you join me?

Add your name to the open letter to party leaders. Tell the next government to make no more cuts to disability benefits. 

To add your name, and call for no more cuts, click on this logo: 

 

no more cuts

 

In a similar vein, there is a petition started by Dorothy Jump that has so far gained more than 28,000 signatures – including mine.

It concerns indefinite awards of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). As part of the process of switching from DLA to Personal Independence Payment, the so-called indefinite awards are being reviewed; they are no longer regarded as indefinite.

Dorothy’s petition is to ‘stop the change to indefinite claim on Disability Living Allowance Benefit’.

This, I have also signed. You can join me, by clicking this logo: no more cuts

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Disability PIP Figures Released but Were they Buried to Avoid the Media?

Terrible facts about the UK government’s Personal Independence Payments (PIP) crept out almost unnoticed towards the end of last month. I find the way those important figures were released was both despicable and cynical.

And that’s because the unpalatable facts were not given in the House of Commons as you might expect. Instead, they were placed in a written answer to a question from Christian Matheson, an MP of the Labour party.

PIPNow, you might think that the question was prearranged and, while I cannot say it definitely was, it is certainly not possible for me to dismiss the suggestion. Add to that the fact that the answer was given on April 28. That was some days later than prime minister Theresa May announced plans for the snap general election. Then consider the possibility that the way the information was published was meant to bury it. The Press had bigger stories to attract their interest .

On the other hand, leaving the main election coverage to the mainstream media, I’ll concentrate on disability matters.

So, let’s look at the information supplied by Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people.

Mr Matheson asked what proportion of 2016 PIP cases, overturned at reconsideration or appeal, were initially assessed at zero points.

Shocking PIP admission

Replying, Ms Mordaunt shockingly admitted a quarter of claimants who won their PIP appeals in 2016 started with zero points.

She said that in 2016, a total of 34,110 PIP mandatory reconsiderations led to a higher award. Of these, 5,030 – or 15% – were decisions where the original award was zero points.

But it goes from bad to worse. This is because, out of a total of 32,070 PIP appeals that resulted in a higher award, 8,100 – or 25% – also started as zero points decisions.

What’s really terrible, really shocking, about the figures is the fact that more than 66,000 PIP assessments were overturned and that more than 13,000 had been given zero points.

It all points to a sad indictment of those original assessments, the competency of the assessors and the suitability of the two companies involved – Capita and Atos.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

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Disabilities: Government loses tribunals, then changes rules

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Unhappy about two decisions made against it in legal tribunals, in relation to assessments for a disability benefit, the government now plans to change the regulations to get its own way. Is that a cynical response? Yes. It’s like changing the rules of a sport halfway through a game because you don’t like the referee’s decisions.

It all stems from decisions made last rear by the Upper Tribunal that had the effect of widening the criteria for qualifying for different elements of the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The benefit is claimed by people with MS and many other disabilities.

There is no doubt that the tribunal was entitled to make its judgments in the way the law was written but they did not fit in with the government’s view. So the regulations are to be changed to put things back the way they were.

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Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP.

Interestingly, and this is puzzling, in a statement made to the House of Commons on Thursday, minister of state for disabled people Penny Mordaunt said: “This (the changes) will not result in any claimants seeing a reduction in the amount of PIP previously awarded by DWP.”

Does that mean that anyone who has benefited from the tribunal decisions will keep their payments but that new applicants will have to abide by the changed regulations, once they come into effect? Don’t hold your breath!

The MS Society says: “The planned changes will affect the way that someone’s level of PIP award is calculated. They affect one of the 10 ‘daily living activities’ (which determine eligibility for the daily living component), and one of the two ‘mobility activities’ (which determine eligibility for the mobility component).

“The affected activities are Daily Living Activity 3 – Managing therapy or monitoring a health condition, and Mobility Activity 1- Planning and following a journey. The changes make these descriptors slightly more restrictive. They could impact the awards some people get.”

What that the extent of the impact for people with MS or other disabilities is not yet known but various disability groups will be working to establish how they will affect their communities. 

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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People with MS receiving higher rate mobility allowance slashed by almost half

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Amazing and terrible figures about the differences in payments between two of the UK’s disability benefits have been uncovered by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show by using the Freedom of Information Act.

The differences relate to payments made through the Disabled Living Allowance which is being phased out in favour of the newer Personal Independence Payment. Both benefits have two sections, one for care and one for mobility. Both of those are paid at different rates, dependent of the level of the claimant’s disability.

benefits

Photo: The Independent.

And the absolutely terrible news is that the official figures, revealed by the Freedom of Information Act enquiry, reveal that number of recipients of the higher level of the mobility component has been slashed during the change from one benefit to another.

For people with multiple sclerosis, while 93% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this has almost halved to 50%.

In the case of those with Parkinson’s, the situation is even worse as the numbers have fallen to less than half from82% down to just 40%.

The most shocking of all is that while 83% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has plummeted by more than two thirds to a miserable 24%.

Benefits and Work website that advises people with disabilities about claiming benefits has been at the fore front of the fight against the transition from the DLA to PIP, point out that the unfairness of the system is worse than just mobility component.

On the website, this week, it says: “Some claimants, such as Wendy who has early onset Alzheimer’s, get an award of PIP and then 18 months later are found to have improved to the extent that they no longer qualify for anything.”

Now, I think that that is a pretty amazing recovery!

Benefits and Work continues: “It was clear from the outset that PIP’s main purpose was to cut costs. It is now equally clear that the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) don’t (sic) care who has to pay the price for those cuts.”

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Assessment changes welcome but not yet enough

News that the government is to scrap continuous benefit reassessments for people with progressive health conditions, who can’t work, and receive the UK’s Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is welcome.  Sadly, however, it does not go far enough.

The change in government policy, announced on Saturday, only concerns just one of the country’s health and disability benefits.  It does not involve those people who receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or those who have not yet been moved to that from the old Disabled Living Allowance.

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Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green MP,

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green MP said that new criteria, being developed will help decide who can have their ESA reassessments stopped, meaning they will not be asked again to prove they are too unwell to work.

The decision follows months of talks between a group of charities, including the MS Society, and the Department for Work and Pensions in which those charities have pushed for the government to end unnecessary reassessments of people with MS and other progressive conditions. But those campaigners cannot give up. There are still several unanswered questions, including exactly who this will apply to and how it will be awarded.  The government might have accepted the argument for ESA; now it must do the same for PIP. Anything less is simply unacceptable

It is said that those eligible are likely to be people with a progressive form of MS. I hope that does not mean that it excludes people with relapsing MS, after all, ALL MS is progressive to a greater or lesser degree.

reassessments

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell.

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell welcomed the news but also recognized that the fight needs to continue. She said: “This is a victory for common sense. Frequent reassessments for people with progressive conditions like MS are too often a waste of time and money; they can leave people with uncertainty and fear of having their support taken away.

“We are therefore delighted that the government have listened to our concerns and have agreed to stop reassessments – albeit for only some ESA claimants.

“This is good news, but there’s still a lot more to do for people with MS – including improving the assessment for ESA and calling for inappropriate reassessments to stop for other vital benefits, like PIP.”

 

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