Tony Lloyd joined the MS Society on the steps of 10 Downing Street to deliver a letter which highlights the widespread concerns with Personal Independence Payment (PIP), including uninformed assessors, inaccurate reports and excessively complex forms.
Tony Lloyd said, “PIP is essential for claimants with Multiple sclerosis (MS) and other illnesses who want to live independently.
“I know from practise that disabled claimants feel their assessors do not understand their conditions at all, and do not give them the opportunity to explain how their conditions affect them.
“These assessment processes are not fit for purpose, and instead of supporting people, the process is often dehumanising, inaccurate and worsens existing health conditions.”
Figures uncovered by the MS Society revealed 83% of people with MS who appealed their PIP decision after moving from the old benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), won their case at tribunal – a success rate 12% higher than the general overturn rate for PIP.
MS Society ambassador Janis Winehouse, who has secondary progressive MS and is mother of the late Amy Winehouse, said: “I’m here today to support the people living with MS whose voices still aren’t being heard. Some of my closest friends have been through the exhausting and demoralising process of claiming PIP, and it can’t go on any longer. MS is relentless, painful and disabling, and right now PIP is costing many people their independence rather than giving it to them.”
Ashley Arundale, a 29-year-old veterinary nurse from Leeds has the relapsing form of MS with symptoms including pain, limited mobility, vision problems and extreme fatigue, said, “When I eventually got my assessment report it was full of contradictions, and ignored anything I’d said that was inconvenient to her version of me. The report also said my condition could improve with specialist input. But treatment does not make MS better, it just stops it getting worse.
“I’m not an angry person but it makes me really angry – the total lack of knowledge was alarming. I thought about appealing but was afraid of making a fuss and losing the award altogether, which I know has happened to others. Right now I don’t feel supported by the system at all.”
Jonathan Blades, Head of Campaigns and External Relations at the MS Society, added: “The UK’s welfare system is in crisis, leaving thousands of disabled people suffering as a result. A process that was designed to protect society’s most vulnerable is now too often doing the opposite. More than 100,000 of us live with MS in the UK, and we needs common-sense changes to PIP now so people can get the basic support they need. This doesn’t require a lengthy consultation or elusive green paper – just decisions backed up by evidence, and assessments carried out by professionals with good knowledge of the condition.
“We hope the Prime Minister will read this letter carefully, and understand the impact these deeply flawed assessments are having. It’s about time we had a benefits process people can trust.”