Nearly half of those with multiple sclerosis surveyed by MS Society said they felt the process caused their condition to relapse or deteriorate
Many multiple sclerosis sufferers required to undergo assessments to claim disability benefits are having their health damaged as a result, a survey suggests.
The MS Society found that nearly half (48%) of people with the disease of the nervous system who had an assessment for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) felt the process caused their condition to deteriorate or relapse. Just over a third who had a face-to-face assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) said the same.
The charity says the disability benefits system fails to take adequate account of the fluctuating and hidden symptoms of MS, or the extent of their impact.
Its chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: “Having MS is enough; it should not be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense for people living with the condition.
“Lack of understanding of the condition and the failure to use information from medical professionals is causing stress or contributing to relapses and deteriorating health. This is counterintuitive to a system designed to support people with disabilities.”
ESA, and its eligibility test, Work Capability Assessments, and PIP have been dogged by controversy. The fairness of the assessments have been called into question repeatedly and there have been severe delays in processing claims, leaving people stressed and penniless while they wait.
As well as the detrimental impact on health recorded by the survey, a number of respondents said the changes to the benefits system had forced them to spend less, including on treatment.
Around one in 10 said they had reduced outlay on attending hospital appointments and a similar proportion said they had cut down on medical treatment or prescriptions. About a third said they were spending less on food, 28% on transport and 41% on socialising with family and friends.