We're calling on the newly appointed Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, to lead a fundamental rethink of the way disability benefits are assessed.
We stand with more than 60 organisations as part of the Disability Benefits Consortium, to urge the Government to hold an emergency debate on changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
At present, there are no plans for the changes to be openly discussed and debated in the Commons.
Debate about PIP still needed
Our CEO Michelle Mitchell said:
"It’s encouraging that the Prime Minister has acknowledged the changes proposed to PIP need rethinking but we remain concerned that currently there are no plans to debate these in the House of Commons. Unless these measures are removed altogether, we need an emergency debate on this vital issue.
“Iain Duncan Smith's candid resignation letter also calls into question a number of other Government welfare policies over recent years.
Having MS is enough
"Having a disability like MS is hard enough. It shouldn't be made harder by a welfare system that doesn't make sense.
"We've been asking for a fundamental reform to the assessment process for all disability benefits and this needs to be at the top of the to-do list for Stephen Crabb as the new Work and Pensions Secretary. We look forward to working with him constructively to help design a better system that genuinely supports people with disabilities to live independently and contribute to society.”
The 20 metre rule doesn't make sense
One particularly clear example of how the system currently does not make sense is the 20 metre rule. When PIP replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the eligibility criteria for the higher rate of the mobility component was reduced from 50 metres to 20 metres.
This means that people with a physical disability who can walk roughly the length of two buses, even using aids and adaptations, are no longer considered to have the highest mobility needs.
Thousands could be affected by changes to PIP
The Government’s projections have estimated that around 548,000 DLA recipients will no longer qualify for the enhanced rate mobility component under PIP.
Since the introduction of PIP, the proportion of people with MS receiving the highest rate of mobility support has fallen significantly. Under DLA, 94% of claimants with MS received the higher rate of the mobility component of the benefits. So far this has only been awarded to 42% of PIP claimants with MS. This means it is likely that far fewer people with conditions like MS will be able to access the Motability scheme.
We strongly believe that people with MS who can walk more than 20 metres (but no more than 50 metres) face many of the same barriers to mobility, and therefore the same additional costs, as those who can walk for less than this distance.
Calling on Stephen Crabb to review the welfare system
We need a review that makes sure:
- Disability benefits assessments accurately take into account the fluctuating and hidden symptoms of MS and their impact.
- The disability benefits system takes adequate account of evidence from experienced professionals who understand the person’s condition.
- Existing criteria which do not reflect the barriers faced by people with MS are changed.
- People with MS can rely on support when they need it, without unnecessary burden or constant fear of having it taken away.
What's the evidence?
Last summer as part of our MS: Enough campaign, we surveyed 1,780 people with MS about the role of disability benefits in their lives and their experience of the disability benefits system.
- Over half of them (57%) said that benefits assessments do not accurately determine the impact of their MS
- More than a third said face-to-face assessments had caused their MS to relapse or deteriorate
- Many told us they are having to make difficult choices. Choices like whether they can afford to buy basic essentials, attend hospital appointments or spend time with family and friends.