This week we launched our MS: Enough campaign, calling for the welfare system to make sense for people with MS. Aislinn Lunt, Head of Policy and Communications at the MS Society Scotland, explains the Scottish picture.
Welfare support is vital for many people with MS. It helps them to manage the extra costs of the condition, stay in work for longer and participate fully in society.
Yet the current system is not making sense, too often ignoring invisible symptoms like pain and fatigue and failing to recognise how MS can fluctuate.
Our campaign is based on a UK-wide survey of people with MS, including 242 responses from Scotland. We also asked people in Scotland their views through a series of "Voices for Change" workshops.
Key findings in Scotland
Shockingly, one third of Scottish respondents to our survey told us they had been forced to cut their spending on basic essentials, such as food, because of changes to disability benefits.
- 50% felt changes to disability benefits have had a negative impact on them.
- 30% have reduced spending on food.
- 25% have cut down on gas and electricity.
- 47% have cut down on socialising with family and friends.
- 91% found the process of claiming disability benefits stressful, which can lead to an MS relapse.
- Nearly a third do not claim all the benefits the need because of stigma.
Our call for change in Scotland
The UK Government need to recognise the reality of living with MS, fast. We also need the Scottish Government to join our fight for those who face poverty, inequalities and discrimination due to the failures of the current system.
In Scotland we have a unique opportunity to help shape a new system for people living with MS. The Scotland Bill proposes to devolve new welfare powers worth £2.5 billion to Scotland. Read more about the proposals
As part of MS: Enough, we’re calling on Scotland’s decision makers to ensure the creation of a welfare system that makes sense for people with MS, where they have the power to do so.
What are we calling for?
Our key asks are outlined in our Scottish report. In summary:
• We’re calling for great clarity on the scope of the new powers.
• We want people with MS to be at the heart of shaping the new powers.
• We want to see a welfare system is appropriate for people with MS, and a Scotland where people can live free of discrimination and stigma.
• We want to see a system that accurately takes into account the fluctuating and hidden symptoms of MS when assessing and awarding benefits.
• We want Scotland to develop an employability programme that helps people with MS who want to remain in work, but does not penalise those for whom the barriers to work are too great.
• As Scotland moves towards integrating health and social care services, we want to see a welfare and employment support system that is aligned with, and enhances, these services.
What are we doing?
We’re sharing our report with all of Scotland’s MSPs and MPs and with the Scottish Government. Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, has backed our campaign.
We’ve responded to consultations by the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee and the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee
We’re continuing to gather evidence about the welfare system from people living with MS across Scotland, and what your hopes are for the future. We’ll take every opportunity to ensure that your voice is heard.
What you can do
• Join our campaigns community to stay up to date with MS: Enough and take actions
• Tell us your hopes for further powers in Scotland. Email [email protected] and, with your consent, we’ll use your views to call for change.