Theresa May is under pressure to shake up the entire assessment process for PIP (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
Thousands of benefit claimants with multiple sclerosis have been told they are “not disabled enough”, a charity warns today.
New figures show the huge number of people with MS – a progressive, long-term condition with no cure – who have claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) rejected.
The benefit pays up to £141 a week to help people cover the extra costs of being disabled or long-term sick.
But since it launched in 2013, 31% of new claims by people with MS – 4,100 in total – have been “disallowed”, it’s claimed.
A further 6% (1,100) are said to have qualified for PIP initially, but were later rejected following a reassessment.
Thousands of people with a long-term progressive condition are being rejected (Image: Getty)
The figures, obtained from the government under Freedom of Information laws by the MS Society, come after a string of complaints about the quality of assessments for the benefit.
Protesters say medical evidence is often missed in the process, and 65% who appeal to an independent tribunal win their case.
Thousands of people who scored no qualifying points at all in assessments have won appeals to get PIP.
MS sufferer Bethan Thorpe, 41, who was denied the benefit in 2014 only to win the highest rate of PIP at a tribunal, said: “The assessor wasn’t aware I had MS and obviously hadn’t read my medical reports.
“When I saw my report of the assessment, I was shocked to see I’d been marked down for being able to shake the assessor’s hand, and for carrying a handbag.
“I was made to feel like a liar about my condition; it was so demoralising.
“For almost a whole year I had no income while I was fighting this decision.
One woman said: “I was made to feel like a liar – it was so demoralising” (Image: Getty)
“My health suffered tremendously in that time, as stress makes my symptoms worse. Without PIP I couldn’t even get to my hospital appointments.”
Today the MS Society warns the entire system of assessments – which private firms carry out at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds a year – is “fundamentally flawed”.
Chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “It’s insulting that so many people who are diagnosed with a long-term, incurable condition are being told they don’t qualify for support.
“The Government needs to review the whole system to make sure it works more effectively for those it’s designed to support.
“Having MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) source said new evidence in Ms Thorpe’s case was only submitted a month before her appeal hearing.
A spokeswoman said: “PIP assessments look at how individuals are affected by conditions such as multiple sclerosis over the majority of days in a year, rather than just assessing ability on a single day.
“Under PIP, 36% more people with multiple sclerosis receive the highest rate of support than under the previous DLA system.
“More than 2.6 million PIP decisions have been made, and of these 8% have been appealed and 4% have been overturned. In the majority of successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.”