Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has shown her support for MS Society Scotland’s campaign to ensure that Scotland’s new social security does not fail people living with disabilities. MS Society Scotland were campaigning at Holyrood this week to urge the Scottish Government to scrap the “crude and cruel” ‘20-metre rule’.
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) UK-wide system which people living in Scotland currently apply for is set to be devolved next year. The Scottish Government has pledged to end PIP when powers are transferred to Holyrood but is yet to confirm whether the 20-metre rule, which states that anyone who can walk this short distance is not entitled to the higher rate of mobility assistance, will remain a part of the devolved system. The 20m rule is a poor fit for conditions like MS where symptoms fluctuate.
Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the 20m rule at First Minister’s Question this week and answered that the Government is looking “looking very carefully and very seriously at that issue.”
Ms Wishart commented:
“To be fit for purpose, the benefits system must be able to respond to the realities of living with a long-term condition. That is not happening at the moment.
“The 20m rule is a crude and cruel test that must be scrapped. For conditions like MS where there are good days and bad days, claimants shouldn’t be penalised for simply being assessed on a day when a 20m walk was possible.
“With the prevalence of MS in Shetland, I will be following up on the First Minister’s answer with the Social Security Secretary.”
According to MS Society Scotland, more than 15,000 people live with MS in Scotland and nearly one in six will lose out on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) support because of the 20-metre rule. As a result of this rule, thousands with MS have been stripped of their Motability cars and left trapped in their homes and unable to work, seen their health deteriorate, and been forced to face stressful and lengthy appeals to get their benefits reinstated.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said:
“We’ve long known about the enormous harm caused when PIP takes vital support away from people with MS. Not only does the process lack respect for people and their lives but arbitrary and nonsensical conditions like the 20-metre rule can deprive people of vital support.
“We urge the Scottish Government to reform the assessment system – including the nonsensical and arbitrary 20-metre rule.
“We have heard pledges that under devolution the system will treat people with respect and dignity and what we have heard from our community is that for that to happen then, simply put, this rule must be scrapped.
“MS can be painful and exhausting, it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”