‘Senseless’ system leaves Newham MS sufferers in without mobility benefit, new data shows

Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA.

Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA. - Credit: PA

New data shows multiple sclerosis sufferers in Newham have likely lost part of their mobility benefit under the new system.

The MS society is blaming the ‘unfair and senseless’ criteria of the Personal Independence Payment, which effectively takes the highest mobility rate away from people who can walk more than 20 meters.

In February 2013, before the transition to PIP, there were 117 Disability Living Allowance claimants with MS in Newham.

Of those, 103 were on the highest mobility payment, 88 per cent of the group.

By January this year, just 47 people with MS in Newham were receiving the highest rate of mobility benefits under PIP, 66 per cent of claimants.

The enhanced rate is awarded to people who have severe difficulties moving around and covers the cost of specially adapted cars and scooters.

People with the MS are less likely to get this extra support under PIP compared to DLA under the previous benefit system.

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Under DLA, the higher rate was awarded to people who could not walk 50 metres unaided. With PIP, that’s now 20 metres.

“More than 100,000 people live with MS in the UK and we know it’s harder for them to get mobility support under PIP than DLA. That’s down to the 20 metre rule,” said Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society.

“This unfair and senseless criteria says if you can walk one step over 20 metres you don’t need the highest level of mobility support and are therefore ineligible for a Motability vehicle, which many rely on to get around.

“It was brought in when PIP started to replace DLA as part of reforms to reflect a ‘modern understanding of disability’, but there’s nothing modern or understanding about thousands of people with MS trapped in their own homes, with worsening health and unable to get to work.”

Claimants of the enhanced mobility rate receive £61.20 per week and £23.20 at the standard rate.

In Newham, one in five people with MS received the lower rate and 13% were paid no mobility benefits at all.

Disability charity Scope said its research shows disabled people face extra costs of £583 per month on average.

Head of policy and public affairs James Taylor said: “These figures show many disabled people are suddenly losing out on vital financial support overnight.

“PIP is a lifeline, which exists because life costs more if you are disabled.

“The failing PIP assessment needs an urgent overhaul so it accurately reflects those extra costs and works for disabled people, not against them.”

A DWP spokesman insisted that the department is spending more than ever supporting disabled people and that people with the most severe, life-long conditions no longer have to attend regular PIP reviews.

“Over two thirds of MS claimants receive the same or a higher award after DLA to PIP reassessment,” he said.

He also insisted that walking over 20 metres is not an absolute bar to the enhanced rate.

But the only other way to gain the rate is to have some kind of mental disability that means the claimant cannot plan or follow the route of a journey without aid, usually on top of having trouble moving.