The ’20-metre rule’ is slicing £83million from hard-up disabled people – yet it will cost the state more than it saves, a damning MS Society report warns today
A “brutal cut” to disability benefit hitting thousands of multiple sclerosis sufferers will cost more than it saves, a charity warns today.
The MS Society blasted a rule that prevents people getting the highest Personal Independence Payment (PIP) if they can walk over 20 metres.
In a damning report, the charity said 16,000 people with MS would receive more PIP – worth up to £149 a week – without the ’20-metre rule’.
Yet the rule will still cost the taxpayer millions, because £83.3m in savings are outweighed by £92.7m in costs, the report said.
Those costs include £57.4m in lost tax revenue from people having to leave work after they lose facilities like a specially-adapted car.
There are also £22.3m extra costs to the NHS through GP, A&E and counselling appointments; £11.4m in other benefits and £1.7m processing extra assessments and appeals.
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The charity estimated the savings and costs over a three-year period between 2020 and 2023.
Genevieve Edwards of the MS Society said: “The Government is squandering millions from the public purse while derailing lives.”
She added: “Scrapping this senseless rule would stop this unnecessary waste and help people with MS finally get the support they need.
“MS can be painful and exhausting, it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”
Hundreds of thousands of long-term benefit claimants had their payments downgraded or stopped moving to PIP since it launched in 2013.
The MS Society said just 71% of MS sufferers now receive enhanced mobility payments, compared to 94% under the old system.
The charity spoke to Emma Williams, 51, from Ashford, Kent, who was diagnosed with MS in 2000.
Despite receiving PIP’s predecessor DLA at the highest rate, her payments were downgraded when she moved to PIP in 2016.
She told the charity: “I’ve had to cut down on food and I don’t go out socially anymore.
“I live with my mum because I can’t manage on my own.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said some people can still claim the full PIP rate even if they can walk more than 20 metres.
Those who cannot walk 20 metres “safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly or in a reasonable time period” can still get the highest rate.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re spending more than ever supporting disabled people and those with health conditions and people who can walk more than 20 metres can still receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component.
“Over two thirds of MS claimants receive the same or a higher award after DLA to PIP reassessment.
“We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working well, and people with the most severe, life-long conditions no longer have to attend regular reviews for PIP.”