Today is the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day to celebrate disabled people across the world. Disability inclusion is essential for human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security.
The theme for this year is ‘Fighting for rights in the post-COVID era’. Disabled people are among the most affected populations by the COVID pandemic. So although it isn't over yet, we're using this day to look to a fairer future.
We're joining the UN to call on politicians and citizens across the world to work together to reduce the barriers faced by disabled people in every community. Read about how our MS campaigners came together to tackle issues facing people with MS this year and how we can go even further.
Campaigning for better funded neurology services
People with MS struggle to access neurology services, which have been stretched, underfunded and overlooked for years. We've been campaigning to improve these services for all the disabled people who use them.
During the pandemic, people with MS told us their symptoms had got worse, with half saying this was caused by not getting specialist support. Nearly a third of people living with MS had appointments cancelled and delayed during the pandemic.
Speaking up for disabled people together
Since launching the campaign, almost 8,000 of us signed an open letter to health departments across the UK. We called on them to act now and address the urgent needs in neurology services.
Campaigners Ayad, Robby, Roxy, Jessica and Su (pictured above), who all live with MS, handed in the letter for England to the Department of Health and Social Care. We then headed over to UK parliament to share their experiences with MPs and members of the House of Lords. MS health professionals also shared their stories, all coming together to make the case for change.
“It was great to share my story with people that make change, and that many of them have experiences of MS. It was also great to hear insight from a neurologist and speak with them too”.
Our Neurology Now campaign will continue on into next year, working with organisations like the Neurological Alliance. We won't stop until we can make sure people with MS can access the services they need.
Disability Benefits at the High Court
Four people on legacy benefits, including Lynn Pinfield, who lives with MS, have brought a case to the High Court.
The High Court will decide whether the UK Government was acting lawfully when they decided not to give nearly 2 million disabled people on legacy benefits, (including Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance), the £20 a week increase people on Universal Credit got at the start of the pandemic.
Lynn's MS means she can't work. She claims ESA and was denied the £20 lifeline. She said:
"I absolutely think this is a case of discrimination against disabled people, and the High Court should find it unlawful. Everyone on benefits should be treated equally. They have made me feel like disabled people don't matter.”
We'll let you know when the decision is announced in the next few weeks. While we hope the High Court will recognise the failings of the UK Government, this fight to end this discrimination may not be over.
Making welfare make sense
Alongside this, almost 500 of us responded to a government consultation on how to improve disability benefits. We told government:
“Once you’ve been granted PIP there is no need to check if you’ve made a miraculous recovery.”
“Not all our disabilities are obvious and people cope in different ways... To the observer I appear to manage fine - but I don’t, it takes me days to recover from a simple trip out. I know I am not the only one.”
They will now read all the responses to the consultation. Their final plans for changes to disability benefits are due in 2022.
We're strongest when we speak up together
Do you have a great idea to make change for people with MS? We'd love to support you to campaign and make it happen.
Whatever action you take, it all makes a difference. Campaigning can be small actions like sending an email or a tweet, or a large-scale campaign event like a protest. We’re all taking local action together to make a difference.
Our Local Action for MS programme can support you to make change, giving you the tools, resources, training and support you need.
Follow us on social media and join our campaigns community for more information on how to stay involved!