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The Autumn Statement: what does it mean for people with MS?

Michelle Mitchell OBE

Yesterday, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered the Autumn Statement to a crowded room of MPs. And after a year of change, everyone was curious to see where the Government would be spending its money in the next year.

I always follow the statements with interest and I had high hopes for this one.

But unfortunately, it’s let down the MS community by ignoring key issues – including social care. We’ve been taking a look at what it means for people with MS.

Ignoring social care

We were hoping that social care would be one item on the agenda. However, I’m deeply disappointed that the Chancellor didn’t mention it at all. Especially as we, and other charities, had called on the Government to urgently address the social care funding crisis. Because of this severe lack of funding, people with MS are going without the support they need. As the system nears its breaking point, we will continue to call for sustainable funding for social care.

Welfare spending

I was interested to see what the statement would say about welfare and benefits too. Universal Credit is a new benefit which combines six existing benefits. If you are in work, the benefit will start to be withdrawn once you earn over a certain amount. Yesterday, the Government announced that it will be withdrawn by a little less than before – by 63p for every extra pound earned instead of 65p. This will make Universal Credit slightly more generous for people with MS who are working, but struggling to get by. The Chancellor also announced that he will effectively increase the welfare spending cap. This is the overall amount that the Government can spend on welfare. I hope that these changes are a sign of a more common sense approach to welfare. Particularly as the changes to disability benefits continue to have an impact on people with MS.

Research and development fund

‘Brexit’ has been talked about non-stop since we voted to leave the EU in June. And researchers are no exception. They’ve been concerned about the potential loss of EU funding. To help with this, the Chancellor announced that £2 billion will be made available for research and development by 2020/21. This will happen through the National Productivity Investment Fund. The fund will support the development of technologies in areas such as robotics and biotechnology. MS research continues to thrive and we hope it will benefit from this new source of funding.

Looking to the future

So what does this mean for the future? With the statement ignoring important issues, we will keep putting pressure on the Government to be bolder at every turn, particularly with social care. Changes to the welfare spending cap is a start. But the Government needs to do more. Only then can we make sure that the welfare system makes sense for everyone with MS.