Firstly, I would like to apologise for the UK focus of this point. I understand this is a global forum with international users and this information will be helpful to them. It is also a very brief guideline for those who may have no experience of the welfare system in the UK, and does not go in to detail of the caveats, exemptions and detail of the process, but I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
I’m Jamie, a 26 year old from Glasgow and diagnosed last year after a struggling with symptoms for 2 years previously.
I’ve recently become involved in the MS Society’s campaign for fairer treatment of benefit applicants with MS.
The current system, as many of you will know from experience, is massively flawed, onerous and can cause enormous stress on the applicants - some of whom may experience relapses as a result.
Despite this, I feel very strongly that people who have their mobility and health affected by MS should be applying for the assistance which they are entitled to.
Employment Support Allowance (ESA) replaced Incapacity Benefit (IB) as an out of work benefit for those whose health is affected to the extent that they can no longer work.
There are two rates of ESA:
Work Related Activity Group
After applying for the benefit, you will receive an appointment to attend a work capability assessment (WCA), during which you will be seen by a health professional contracted by the State to assess your level of fitness and ability to complete a series of work related descriptors, such as being able to mobilise a specific distance. On the basis of your abilities, you will be scored in how you are able to carry out these descriptors, but you must be able to complete them reliably, safely, repeatedly and within a reasonable time period. If you are not able to complete them within these confines, you will be awarded points for how well you are able to complete them. If you are awarded sufficient points, you will be placed into the Support Group, for which you receive additional money and are not compelled to attend work focused interviews at your local Jobcentre - which is still available to support group claimants if they request it.
Personal Independence Payments (PIP) replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as a way to support people with disabilities due to the extra costs they may incur as a result of their disability. This benefit is not determined by your capability to work, but rather how your disability affects you. PIP can be awarded to those in full time employment.
The process of claiming and being assessed for PIP is very similar to that of ESA and involves an assessment with scoring guidelines to determine your capability to complete certain activities. The activities are broken in to two related groups for Daily Living, which relates to your personal care and Mobility, which focuses on your ability to mobilise.
The purpose of MS Society’s campaign is to encourage claimants and potential claimants to seek their full entitlement of benefits and increase the uptake of what you are duly entitled to. It also highlights the problems, difficulties and poor practice of the system and encourages government (both local and national) to take notice of the flaws and help to address them.
There are local reports for each nation of the UK, which can be viewed here:
The benefit process can be stressful, daunting and cumbersome, especially to those who are newly diagnosed and already dealing with the effects of MS in their life. However, it is important that people do not give up and allow their entitlement to go unclaimed, for many reasons. The additional financial help can assist people with MS to live more independent and fuller lives without the additional burdens of financial hardship. And there is help on offer, from Citizens Advice Bureau, local council welfare advisors and independent charities.
I’d be more than willing to answer any questions or hear your experiences of the welfare system.