MS sufferers fear benefits reform

Hampshire Chronicle: 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 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

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

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

And 67% 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.

"I was so stressed filling it in I was unable to write - my hand went into spasms - and in the end I dictated it to my husband. I have several friends with MS who have had poor experiences with the new tests and this has added to my anxiety."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We have worked closely with disability organisations and disabled people themselves as we developed PIP so it can better reflect today's understanding of disability, particularly covering fluctuating conditions.

"We are introducing the new benefit with a gradual phased introduction to allow us to test the claim process as it is important we get decisions right first time, and disabled people would value the fact that we are taking the time to do just that."

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