East Ham MP shines light on problems with disability benefit at Westminster event

Stephen Timms speaking at the event, which he co-hosted with the MS Society. Picture: Rebecca Cresta

Stephen Timms speaking at the event, which he co-hosted with the MS Society. Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society - Credit: Archant

East Ham MP Stephen Timms hosted an event on Tuesday to highlight the problems caused by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Caryl Tandy, who has lived with MS for more than 20 years. Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society

Caryl Tandy, who has lived with MS for more than 20 years. Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society - Credit: Archant

Following a report published by the MS Society, a charity which supports those with multiple sclerosis, the MP hosted the Westminster event to discuss the negative impact PIP has on those with MS.

MS is a neurological condition which affects the brain and spinal chord. It can cause spasms, cognitive problems and issues with balance.

PIP is the replacement benefit for the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Its rollout began in 2013, with the biggest change being the ‘20 metre rule’ – an assessment which states if you can walk more than 20 metres, you aren’t eligible for the highest rate of mobility support.

Stephen Timms speaking at the event, which he co-hosted with the MS Society. Picture: Rebecca Cresta

Stephen Timms speaking at the event, which he co-hosted with the MS Society. Picture: Rebecca Cresta/MS Society - Credit: Archant


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Under the DLA, this limit was 50 metres.

According to a survey in the MS Society’s report, 65 per cent of people with MS said the new rule had negatively impacted their illness. Under the old assessment, 94pc of people with MS were receiving the highest rate of mobility support – now it’s just 66pc.

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Genevieve Edwards, the society’s director of external affairs, said: “It’s causing enormous harm to people with MS, with many losing their independence as a result. This senseless and unfounded rule is leading to people with the highest need facing the biggest losses.

“The 20 metre rule was strongly opposed by charities, people with MS and medical professionals when it was first introduced. PIP needs to change, starting with the government scrapping the 20 metre rule.”

A spokesman from the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a fairer benefit, which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis. A higher proportion of people with MS receive the highest possible award under PIP than under DLA.

“We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working in the best way possible, and we recently announced that people with the most severe, lifelong conditions will no longer have to attend regular reviews for PIP.”

Stephen Timms said: “What we’d like to see, firstly, is the distance changed back to 50 metres. Also, the report shows that while you may save money from reducing people’s benefits, those people tend to use the NHS more as a consequence. It’s a false economy, because while a bit of money has been saved from benefits, more are relying on the NHS.”

“One of the worrying things with MS is it’s a degenerative disease – you only get worse. The system that’s been put in place means you keep being tested, which creates worry for people and uncertainty. Once you need support for MS, you’ll need it forever.”

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