Benefits cuts to Multiple Sclerosis sufferers will ‘cost more’ for UK government

Barbara Hogarth
Barbara Hogarth
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Benefits cuts for people with Multiple Sclerosis will cost the UK government more money than they save, according to a leading charity.

The MS Society says that although benefit cuts for people with the illness are expected to save the government £83.3m over three years, this will be outweighed by knock-on taxpayer costs amounting to more than £92.7m.

More than 100,000 people live with MS in the UK and nearly one in six will lose out on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) support because of the 20 metre rule.

This rule says people who can walk one step over 20m do not need the highest rate of mobility component.

Thousands with MS have been stripped of their Motability cars and left trapped in their homes and unable to work, seen their health deteriorate, and been forced to face stressful and lengthy appeals to get their benefits reinstated. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has insisted its 20 metre rule would not have “any significant additional cost implications” for other government departments.

But the MS Society has found it failed people with MS and had a disastrous impact on public finances. Ahead of the UK government considering its Spending Review, the MS Society has sent a report to the DWP detailing massive extra costs directly related to the 20 metre rule. This includes significant costs to the DWP itself.

Additional costs for the years 2020-2023 (the review period) include: £22.3m to the NHS on increased use of GP, A&E and counselling services – £57.4m in lost tax revenue from people with MS and their carers having to reduce hours or leave work, £11.4m in extra 
benefit payments (Employment and Support Allowance and Carer’s Allowance) for people who left work and £1.7m in processing extra appeals and reassessments.

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “We’ve long known about the enormous harm caused when PIP takes vital support away from people with MS. Our new report shows for the first time that this harm is rebounding on the UK government: the knock-on costs from people losing support are greater than the original cuts. So the UK government is squandering millions from the public purse while derailing lives. Scrapping this senseless rule would stop this unnecessary waste and help people with MS finally get the support they need.”

According to the MS Society the condition can increase living costs by around £200 a week, with one in three people with MS losing support, primarily due to the 20 metre rule, which it wants scrapped to alleviate hardship.

Case Study

Barbara Hogarth, age 67, from Coldstream was diagnosed with MS in September 1993.

She started receiving Disability Living Allowance and was given an indefinite award for the highest mobility and lowest care.

In June 2017, Barbara was reassessed for PIP and was downgraded to the lowest standard rate for mobility and no care. She successfully appealed, after a six-month wait, to be given back the same level of support she had received on DLA. However, this support is only for a three-year period for her lifelong condition.

Barbara said: “The assessor spent more time looking at his computer screen than me. All he seemed to want to do was tick boxes. If I said I could do something then the box got ticked.”