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
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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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.