“I was penalised for trying to keep my independence” – Halifax mum speaks out about disability benefit cut

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor

A mum from Halifax living with multiple sclerosis (MS) has spoken out about her fight to keep vital disability benefits.

Rachel Taylor, age 50, was diagnosed with MS in 2002. Her mobility is severely impacted and she uses a zimmer frame, walking stick and mobility scooter to get around.

The part-time librarian lives in a rural area so relies heavily on her adapted car leased through the Motability scheme.

Rachel had been receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but after a reassessment in 2016 to be moved onto PIP, learnt she no longer qualified for the higher rate of mobility support.

She was forced to return her Motability car and resorted to using her pension savings to lease a new car.

She says the benefit cut had a huge impact: “The local bus goes from a mile away but I can’t walk to the end of my driveway. There’s no hope for me walking to catch a bus. I have a son that I have to get to school.

“I appealed but a month before my tribunal date I was told the appeal wasn’t needed and I would actually qualify. So that money I spent was totally wasted. The stress has been immeasurable.

“At my assessment I said I drive unaided to my dad’s house 100 miles away. I take pride in what I’m able still able to do. But I now believe I was penalised for trying to keep my independence.”

Rachel is one of thousands of people with MS who have had support taken away since PIP began to replace DLA in 2013.

She features in the MS Society’s new report, PIP: A step too far. It reveals how a new rule used in PIP assessments is causing people with MS to lose support at an alarming scale and according to the MS Society’s calculations, is costing the NHS at least an additional £7.7 million a year in GP and A&E services.

Under DLA, the measure used to determine eligibility for mobility support was 50 metres, but under PIP this has been reduced to 20 metres. Now anyone who can walk one step over 20 metres, roughly the length of two double-decker buses, won’t qualify for the higher level of PIP’s mobility component.

Ninety-four per cent of people with MS who were receiving DLA were getting the higher rate of mobility support, but under PIP this has fallen to just 66 per cent.

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: “Contrary to the Government’s insistence that PIP is meant to help those with the greatest needs, the truth is it’s causing enormous harm to people with MS, with many losing their independence as a result.

“This senseless and unfounded rule is leading to people with the highest need facing the biggest losses, and costing our NHS at least an extra £7.7 million each year.

“The 20 metre rule was strongly opposed by charities, people with MS and medical professionals when it was first introduced, and we’re still waiting for the Government to provide any sort of evidence of how it helps those who need support the most.

“Enough is enough; PIP needs to change, starting with the Government scrapping the 20 metre rule.”