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Our Green Paper response: some people with MS can't work, don't put more pressure on them

We’re really concerned about changes to disability benefits proposed in the Government's Green Paper on work, health and disability. And we let them know in our detailed response.

We’re urging them to scrap plans to introduce ‘mandatory activity’ for people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). These plans could force people, already assessed as too unwell to work, to prepare for work or risk facing cuts to their benefits.

Work not always good for health

Our January survey of more than 1,300 people with MS reveals:

  • almost two thirds of respondents (64%) say they are not employed.
  • over half (53%) of this group say they would ideally like to work, but the vast majority (77%) say their MS means it’s not possible for them to work.
  • 62% of those not working feel they couldn’t return to work even with appropriate support.

According to Government figures, of the people with MS claiming ESA, 92% are in the support group. Currently people in this group are not expected to carry out any work-related activity as they tend to have the very highest support needs.

Undue pressure

Our Policy Manager, Laura Wetherly, says: “The Government must recognise that many people with MS simply can’t work because of their condition and may not be able to return to work in the future. For these people, work has become impossible and in some cases could actually make their health worse."

Support the vulnerable

Laura goes on to say “Putting pressure on people already deemed unfit for work won’t help their condition improve, will only make the system more stressful for them, and won’t help to close the disability employment gap. We’re urging the Government to make the welfare system make sense - the most vulnerable people need to be properly supported.”

“I’d love to work, if I could…”

Carole Bennett, who is 58 and from Leeds, was diagnosed with MS in 2003. Around five years ago, she had to give up her job as a local government officer because her symptoms became too severe to carry on. Shortly after, she started receiving ESA.

Carole says: “I wouldn’t be able to do anything without this money – it’s my main form of income. I do very little as it is because the amount I get is only just enough to get by on. I enjoyed my job and if my health was better, I’d love to get back into work. But MS is so unpredictable – some days are better than others and I never know when I’m going to be ok. If I were forced to look for a new job now, the stress would make my symptoms worse and my life would be even harder than it is at the moment.”

Campaign to make welfare make sense

With your help, we’ll keep campaigning to make sure the welfare system makes sense for people who rely on it.