Sufferers with MS ‘in fear of new benefit’

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Changes to the benefits system are forcing those in greatest need to suffer, a charity has warned.

More than half of people who have multiple sclerosis say they have suffered from anxiety over the changes, which has in turn led to ill health, MS Society said.

And 67 per cent said they felt more anxious about how they will manage their condition in the future because of the reforms, according to a poll of 1,500 people with the condition.

The new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has contributed to the anxieties, the charity said.

The criteria for the highest rates of the new PIP are “so tight” that some disabled people could be left trapped in their homes because they could lose access to vital mobility equipment, a spokeswoman said.

And under the Employment Support Allowance, “thousands” of people with MS and other degenerative health conditions were incorrectly told that they’re fit for work, or that they will ‘recover’ enough to work again, she added.

“This is deeply concerning,” said MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell.

“For many, MS is a fluctuating condition and research has shown symptoms can worsen when people are anxious or stressed – ultimately making their condition harder to manage, or more costly for the NHS to treat. It’s a false economy

“The Government says the changes are necessary to focus support on those in greatest need – but it is exactly these people who are suffering because of them. It is vital that the Government urgently reconsiders its approach.”

Harriet Connides, 50, from East Finchley in north London, said she was so worried about filling in the form to claim PIP that she could not write.

Mrs Connides, who was diagnosed with MS in 2004, said: “I am waiting to hear back from the DWP after filling in and sending off the form for PIP several months ago. It’s an anxious wait as I’m terrified of being left with nothing. ”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it had worked closely with disability organisations on developing PIP, which was having a “gradual phased introduction”.