A DISABLED mother who says she was “penalised for her independence” has spoken out about her fight to keep vital disability benefits, as new research showed people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are losing support at an “alarming” rate.
Rachel Taylor, 50, from Halifax, uses a zimmer frame, walking stick and mobility scooter to get around after her mobility worsened following a diagnosis of MS.
The part-time librarian had been receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but after a reassessment in 2016 to be moved onto PIP, learnt she no longer qualified for the higher rate of mobility support. She was forced to return her adapted Motability car, which she heavily relied upon, and resorted to using her pension savings to lease a new car.
Ms Taylor, 50, said: “The local bus goes from a mile away but I can’t walk to the end of my driveway. There’s no hope for me walking to catch a bus. I have a son that I have to get to school.”
A month before an appeal tribunal, she was told she would actually qualify.
“So that money I spent was totally wasted, she said. “The stress has been immeasurable.
“At my assessment I said I drive unaided to my Dad’s house 100 miles away. I take pride in what I’m able still able to do. But I now believe I was penalised for trying to keep my independence.”
The MS Society said Ms Taylor is one of thousands of people with MS who have had support taken away since PIP began to replace DLA in 2013. A new report by the charity said a new rule used in PIP assessments which reduced the measure used for eligibility for mobility support from 50m to 20m, is causing people with MS to lose support at an “alarming scale” and costing the NHS at least an additional £7.7m a year in GP and A&E services.
Director of external affairs at the MS Society, Genevieve Edwards, said: “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. This senseless and unfounded rule is leading to people with the highest need facing the biggest losses, and costing our NHS at least an extra £7.7 million each year.
“The 20 metre rule was strongly opposed by charities, people with MS and medical professionals when it was first introduced, and we’re still waiting for the Government to provide any sort of evidence of how it helps those who need support the most. Enough is enough; PIP needs to change, starting with the Government scrapping the 20 metre rule.”
The charity is calling on the Government to scrap the 20 metre rule.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “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.”