MS sufferers in Fife losing out on benefits under PIP

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Multiple sclerosis sufferers in Fife have likely lost part of their mobility benefit under the new system, data reveals.

The MS Society says this is down to the “unfair and senseless” criteria for the Personal Independence Payment, which takes the highest mobility rate away from people who can walk more than 20 metres.

In February 2013, before the transition to PIP, there were 617 Disability Living Allowance claimants with MS in Fife.

Of those, 588 were on the highest mobility payment, 95 per cent of the group.

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By January this year, just 253 people with MS in Fife were receiving the highest rate of mobility benefits under PIP, 67 per 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.

But compared to DLA under the previous benefit system, people with the condition are less likely to get this extra support.

Under DLA, the higher rate was awarded to people who could not walk 50 metres unaided, compared to 20 metres for PIP.

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating neurological condition, and symptoms include pain, fatigue and loss of movement in the limbs. Many sufferers find it difficult to walk without assistance.

Phillip Anderson, head of policy at the MS Society, said: “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.

“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 Fife, one in five people with MS received the lower rate, and 13 per cent 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.”