A ‘senseless and unfounded’ DWP policy is causing harm to claimants and costing the NHS millions, says a charity

MS Society's campaign and the DWP logo
Support us and go ad-free

A new campaign by the MS Society charity is calling on the DWP to scrap a “senseless and unfounded” policy that’s harming claimants and costing the NHS millions.

The 20-metre rule

The MS Society represents people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a “condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord”. It causes a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, trouble walking, numbness, muscle stiffness/spasms, and problems with balance.

The charity’s campaign is focused on scrapping the ’20-metre rule’, which governs access to the mobility component of the PIP disability benefit. A press release for the campaign seen by The Canary states:

People with MS have been increasingly losing vital support since Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began in 2013. The biggest change has been the introduction of the 20 metre rule, used in PIP assessments to determine eligibility for the higher rate of mobility support. Under the previous benefit – Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – the measure was 50 metres. Now, if you can walk just one step over 20 metres, roughly the length of two double-decker buses, you won’t qualify for higher level of mobility support. Under DLA 94% of people with MS were receiving this higher rate but this has fallen to just 66% under PIP.

The charity has also released a campaign video highlighting the callousness of the 20-metre policy:

Human cost

As part of its research, the MS Society conducted a survey of people with MS who had their support reduced when transferring from DLA to PIP. The results, as described in the press release, make for bleak reading:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
  • 65% said the transition had a negative effect on their MS.
  • 39% increased their use of GP services.
  • 39% had to reduce spending on food.
  • 30% reduced spending on treatments or therapies (such as physiotherapy and counselling).
  • 27% had to borrow money from family or friends.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that the director of external affairs at the MS Society – Genevieve Edwards – was damning of the PIP benefit:

Contrary to the Government’s insistence that PIP is meant to help those with the greatest needs, the truth is it’s causing enormous harm to people with MS, with many losing their independence as a result.

Knock-on effect

Unfortunately, the plight of MS sufferers is not an isolated incident. Government statistics for 2017 show that 47% of people who were formerly receiving DLA saw their benefits fall or stop completely when reassessed for PIP. And a freedom of information request to the DWP revealed that Scottish disability claimants are losing out on an estimated £56.4m annually due to the harshness of PIP assessments.

This has led to multiple claims that the creation of the PIP benefit was mainly about cutting the welfare bill. But MS Society’s research shows how shortsighted such a callous approach to welfare is. Its press release states that:

Based on respondents’ increased use of health services, the NHS is spending more than an additional £1.8 million a year on GP services and £5.9 million a year on hospital A&E services for people with MS who’ve lost support when transitioning to PIP. These figures are projected to rise as more people transfer from DLA to PIP.

This demonstrates that, when the DWP denies someone the support they need, their issues don’t just disappear. Instead, claimants are forced to look elsewhere for assistance.

Consultant neurologist Waqr Rashid describes, in the press release, how this knock-on effect plays out:

There’s no scientific rationale or basis for the recent change to the 20 metre rule and it’s impacting services as well as people with MS. I see people become isolated and depressed, and then contact GPs with more related issues. I’ve even seen patients asking MS Therapy centres to provide additional services that PIP would have paid for. They’re picking up the pieces and frankly it doesn’t make sense.

Wrong on many levels

The MS Society’s campaign demonstrates both the human cost of cutting much-needed benefits and the knock-on effect on the rest of society. When someone’s support is removed, they don’t just stop requiring it.

“Senseless and unfounded” is putting it lightly.

Get Involved!

Sign the MS Society’s petition to scrap the PIP 20-metre rule.

Support the MS Society.

– Support Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Mental Health Resistance Network, fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via MSSociety/YouTube and UK government – Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed