The government’s senseless ’20 metre rule’ is causing devastating benefit cuts for people with MS

The government’s 20 metre rule is depriving MS sufferers of much-needed funds (Picture: Rebecca Cresta © MS Society)

How far can walking 20 metres get you?

From your front door to the closest bus stop? From the car park to the supermarket entrance?

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20 metres is roughly the length of two double decker buses. So for most people walking 20 metres won’t get you very far.

But the government says if you can walk just one step over 20 metres, you won’t qualify for the higher rate of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mobility support.

For thousands of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) this rule is having devastating consequences.

Living with MS is often painful, exhausting, and expensive. Things like an adapted car, treatments and therapies (such as physiotherapy and counselling), and higher gas and electricity bills are just some of the additional costs many people with MS face.

A neurological condition like MS can come with a hefty price tag of an extra £200 a week.

This is why disability benefits are so vital. For Hilary, they meant she could afford Pilates classes to help manage her balance difficulties.

For Rachel, who isn’t able to walk to her bus stop, they meant she could access a Motability car and take her son to school.

Rachel depends on her disability benefits (Picture: Alex Grace © MS Society)

But both Hilary and Rachel have had their benefits cut since PIP started to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013. As have thousands of others with MS who rely on this support, thanks to the introduction of the 20 metre rule.

Under DLA, if you couldn’t walk more than 50 metres you qualified for the higher rate of mobility support. But the goal posts have been shifted for PIP – the measure is now just 20 metres.

The government insists PIP is meant to help people with the greatest needs. But its own figures show how much harm PIP is causing people with MS – 94% 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%.

Thousands are having support unfairly taken from them. MS is a progressive condition where people’s needs will likely only increase.

Our new report, PIP: A step too far, reveals the damaging impact these cuts are having.

People with MS are telling us PIP is harming their health. They are cutting back on food, treatments and therapies and having to borrow money from family or friends.

These cuts aren’t just costing people with MS, they’re also having a staggering knock-on effect on local services. Our research shows people are having to see their GP more often and are even increasing their use of A&E services as a result of cuts.

According to our calculations this is costing the NHS at least an extra £7.7 million each year.

The senseless 20 metre rule is leading to people with the highest needs facing the biggest losses. And it’s unnecessarily wasting already-stretched NHS resources.

The government has never provided any evidence to show why people who can walk 21 metres need less support than those who can’t. Medical professionals say there’s no scientific basis for the rule.

Enough is enough. Too many people with MS are losing their independence. PIP needs to change – starting with the Government scrapping the 20 metre rule.

You can tell Esther McVey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to scrap the 20 metre rule by signing the MS Society’s petition.

MORE: World MS Day: People like me with multiple sclerosis are not getting the treatment they need

MORE: What is multiple sclerosis?


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