The benefits system is harming our health say people with multiple sclerosis

Published date: 09 Sep 2015 at 11:44AM

More than a third of people with multiple sclerosis who claim disability benefits are finding assessments are harming their health, according to a new MS Society report.

In a UK survey of people with MS, nearly half (48%) of those who had an assessment for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) feel the process caused their condition to deteriorate or relapse.

And 36% of those who had a face-to-face assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) feel the same.

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Lack of understanding

Our Chief Executive Michelle Mitchell says: “Having MS is enough. It should not be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense for people living with the condition.

“Lack of understanding of the condition and failure to use information from medical professionals is causing stress or contributing to relapses and deteriorating health.

“This is counterintuitive to a system designed to support people with disabilities.

“At their best, these benefits can enable people to work for longer, live rich, independent family lives and participate fully in society.

“The Government needs to recognise the reality of living with MS and make basic, common sense changes, fast.”

Of those who completed the survey, 242 had had an assessment for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and 269 had had a face-to-face assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Reduced spending

Furthermore, 9% of nearly 1,800 respondents say they have reduced spending on attending hospital appointments. 9% cut down on medical treatment or prescriptions, as a result of benefit changes.

We also found that as a result of benefit changes:

  • 32% have cut down on food
  • 28% have cut down on transport
  • 41% have cut down on socialising with family and friends.

Michelle continues: “Living with a chronic, disabling, neurological condition such as MS is hard - it is also expensive. There are often substantial extra costs which add an average of £200 a week to the household bills.

“Steps must be taken to make sure the disability benefits system is working for those who rely on it or people with MS will continue to struggle.”

Call for change

Our new campaign MS: Enough: Make welfare make sense is calling for:

  • disability benefits assessments to take into account the fluctuating and hidden symptoms of MS and their impact accurately
  • the disability benefits system to take adequate account of evidence provided by experienced professionals who understand the person’s condition
  • existing criteria which do not reflect the barriers faced by people with MS to be changed
  • people with MS to be able to rely on support when they need it, without unnecessary burden or constant fear of having it taken away
  • the Government to undertake a full impact assessment of any further changes they undertake to disability benefits – including the knock on effects on other areas of public spending such as health and social care
  • the Government to work with the disabled community and disability organisations to ensure that back to work support is adequate and addresses the barriers individuals face

Help make welfare make sense

Find out more about MS: Enough: Make welfare make sense and sign our petition today.

Page last updated: 14 Sep 2015
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