MS sufferers’ health damaged by benefits tests, survey finds

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.

Read more here:

Top doctor: social inequality in UK costing 550 lives every day

Sir Michael Marmot, soon to be president of World Medical Association, says hundreds of thousands are dying

More than 200,000 people in the UK are dying prematurely because of social inequalities that risk becoming entrenched, a top doctor has said.

Sir Michael Marmot, who had advised the coalition on the link between health and wealth, warned that research revealed a stark “social gradient” emerging in Britain. The poor not only die on average seven years sooner than the rich, but they can expect to face becoming disabled 17 years earlier. The middle classes in the country had life expectancies of eight years less than the very richest.

However, it was in the field of education where Marmot said the research vividly showed how unfair life was becoming. “If everybody had the same mortality of those with a university education, then [each year] we could prevent 202,000 premature deaths. “If this was caused by a pollutant, there would be people on the streets saying ‘stop it now’. The irony is that the cause is pin-pointable. It is the inequalities in the conditions [in which] we are born, grow, live, work and age, and it’s damaging the health of us all. It is costing us 550 lives a day in the UK alone.”

In his new book, The Health Gap, he argues that those who blame lifestyles miss the point. “Over 30 years, smoking levels have declined while obesity has soared. Have we become more responsible when it comes to smoking and less responsible when it comes to obesity. No.”

There is little doubt that inequality has become a feature of British life. Since 1980, the share of total income received by the top one per cent of Britain has almost doubled, to about 13% in 2011, reversing a three-decades-long trend towards greater equality.

This when, the academic pointed out, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found at least 8.1 million parents and children living on incomes below what is needed to cover a minimum household budget, up by more than a third from 5.9 million in 2009.

Marmot, who is about to become president of the World Medical Association, criticised the “austerity agenda” of many politicians, saying that the Office of Budget Responsibility had pointed out it had cut 5% from GDP. He warned that a proposed £200m cut to public health budgets at such a time was a “very bad thing”. He also questioned the government’s plans to raise the pension age past 66 and link it to life expectancy.

Recent data showed the average age to which people could expect to remain in good health was around 64 for men and 66 for women. Sir Michael pointed out that average life expectancy figures mask a 16-year variation between those in the best- and worst-off neighbourhoods. By the age of 68, nearly two-thirds of people in England had a disability that could make it difficult to stay in work.

Read more here:

DWP brushing health under the carpet of universal credit

This is from the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers against Poverty
This letter is being sent to the Prime Minister today 22 June 2015.
Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP 21st June 2015
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1 0AA
Email copy to MPs and Peers
DWP brushing health under the carpet of the Universal Credit.
I wrote to you on the 19th May highlighting the negative impact on the health of the men, women and children in the UK when incomes are set so low, and living costs particularly rent and council tax too high, that debt is inevitable. I raised the impact on health of sanctions, of the chaotic housing market, of council tax enforcement and of the increased risk of low birthweight leading to permanent developmental brain disorder. I noted the lack of a governmental estimate of the cost to the taxpayer of poverty and debt related illness in the NHS and the schools. I cited independent evidence supporting all my concerns.
My letter was sent to the DWP by your office, “so they may reply in detail on the matters you raise”. I replied it should have been sent as well to several other departments whose policies have a negative impact on the health of the employed and unemployed.
The DWP wrote me a long letter to me about the Universal credit. It started with;
“Situations such as you describe highlight the urgent need for reform of the current benefit system. Key to this Government’s reforms is the introduction of Universal Credit. There are two fundamental problems with the current welfare system: poor work incentives and complexity.”
The words “health” or “debt” or “nutrition” or “rent” or “maternal” or “sanctions” do not appear even once in the DWP’s letter to me of the 17th June. It does not cite even one example of independent evidence about the impact on the health of the employed and the unemployed who engage with the current or future systems of social security.
I would be very grateful for an answer to my letter to you of the 19th May that shares the widespread concern for the health and wellbeing of the men, women and children of the UK with the lowest incomes. The impact of government policies on their capacity to buy minimum quantities of food, utilities, clothes, transport and other necessities is damaging their health, education, fitness for work and the wider economy.
I hope too you will commission an independent assessment of the impact on the mental and physical health of men, women and children of benefit cuts, caps and council tax since 2010 and of the Universal Credit.
from the Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Treating UK tourists in Europe costs five times more than equivalent cost to NHS

Critics say figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act ‘puncture a big hole’ in claims that health tourism is costing Britain


The cost of treating British people who become ill while travelling in Europe is five times higher than the cost of treating ill visitors from other European countries in the UK, official figures show.

The Department of Health data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that it cost £30m in 2013-14 to meet the costs of European visitors using the National Health Service. This is less than one-fifth of the £155m cost to other states in the European single market for treating ill British tourists.

The figures for costs are for the medical treatment of European Economic Area tourists under the European health insurance card (Ehic) and cover visitors rather than residents or temporary migrants, but critics say they “puncture a big hole” in claims that health tourism is costing Britain dearly.

A £200-a-year health “surcharge” was introduced this week for all new migrants from outside the EEA who stay in the UK for longer than six months. The surcharge, which is £150 a year for overseas students, is payable upfront andcovers migrants for the duration of their visa.

Ministers have said the Department of Health is working on plans to charge those non-EU patients who are not subject to the health surcharge 150% of the cost of NHS treatment. EU migrants working in Britain pay for NHS treatment through their tax and national insurance contributions.

read the rest of this Guardian article here:

Making people ill is written in to the DWP Decision makers’ guidance on sanctions.

According to DWP advice for DWP sanction decision makers,

“it would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without

1. essential items, such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation or
2. sufficient money to buy essential items for a period of two weeks.”……

“The DM must determine if a person with a medical condition would suffer a greater decline in health than a normal healthy adult and would suffer hardship (DMG 35142 et seq)”.”


Read the full text of Rev Paul Nicholson (of Taxpayers against Povery)’s letter published on the Kilburn Unemployed Workers’ blog at,


The DWP never thinks about the additional costs in the NHS when the DWP makes people mentally and physically ill by shredding or even stopping their incomes; and then enforcing inevitable rent and council tax arrears, overpayments etc……….

This is a clip from a government document for Decision Makers (re Sanctions) in the DWP. You can find the full article on the Ekklesia website,  It was sent in by a TAP supporter.

Guidance for hardship payments

“Comparing the decline in health with a healthy adult

35098 The DM must consider if the health of the person with the medical condition would decline more than a normal healthy adult. The DM should make this comparison based on a normal healthy adult who is in similar circumstances to the person with the medical condition.

35099 It would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without

1. essential items, such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation or

2. sufficient money to buy essential items for a period of two weeks. 

See Appendix 6 to this Chapter for further guidance.

The DM must determine if a person with a medical condition would suffer a greater decline in health than a normal healthy adult and would suffer hardship (DMG 35142 et seq)”.

read more here:

Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression

Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.

Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants face being stripped of their state allowances if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being drawn up by ministers.Existing welfare rules mean it is not possible to require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving sickness benefits.

Senior ministers now believe the rules should be reviewed in order to reduce the “huge” numbers of people who are declared unfit for work due to mental health problems.The first moves towards potential reform are expected in a series of pilot schemes to be launched within weeks. The trials, jointly designed by the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, will test ways of combining treatment for mental health problems with support to find work.

According to the government, 46 per cent of benefit claimants receiving Employment and Support Allowance, the main benefit for ill and disabled people, have mental health problems. This means that the proposal to enforce treatment could apply to an estimated 260,000 claimants, who receive up to £101 per week each in ESA. Estimates based on government figures suggest the state spends up to £1.4 billion a year – more than £3.5 million per day – on ESA for these claimants with mental health issues.

The reforms however, would apply only to those claimants judged to be capable of some work in future. Those who are judged to be incapable of work due to the severity of their conditions would not be targeted under the plans.

Tory ministers hope to persuade senior Liberal Democrats to back the idea of mandating treatment for benefit claimants with common mental health problems.

The proposal will raise ethical questions about whether the state should have the power to force patients to undergo treatment.