A DAD who has multiple sclerosis (MS) has joined a campaign to overhaul a disability benefit, saying he felt like he was "on trial" when trying to get his payments.

Rob Denholm, 43, who lives with the condition, has joined the MS Society to call for a change to the disability payment Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  

This year marks 10 years since the introduction of PIP but the MS Society says new figures show the PIP process is having a detrimental impact on the overall health of people with the condition.    

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Rob was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2006. His symptoms include cognitive difficulties and fatigue, and his walking ability varies from day-to-day. Rob was automatically transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP in 2019, which meant he had to re-apply and be re-assessed.  

PIP is the main disability benefit people with MS claim in the UK, intended to support people with the extra costs of their condition – ranging from adapted vehicles to mobility aids – and helps them to live independently.

MS is a condition where the immune system attacks the coating which protects nerves. Symptoms differ in each person, but can often be invisible, and can fluctuate from day-to-day, which the MS Society says rigid PIP assessment criteria fails to take into account. 

St Helens Star: Rob DenholmRob Denholm (Image: .)

'I felt like I was on trial'

Rob, from Newton-le-Willows, said: “During the PIP assessment it felt like I was on trial. They would ask you the same question in three different ways to try and catch you out. The whole way through I kept thinking, ‘I could lose everything’.

"I can’t drive a manual car anymore because I don’t have the coordination, so I have an automatic car through the Motability scheme. But access to this scheme is determined by your PIP assessment.

"In my household with my son, I’m the only driver. So losing the car would have been awful. I can’t afford to get taxis and getting the bus isn’t an option either. By the time I get to the bus stop I’m exhausted." 

St Helens Star: Rob DenholmRob Denholm (Image: .)

Rob added: “When the report came back, it was full of factual errors. I provided evidence from my consultant about my cognitive impairment. But this was ignored, and the report said that I demonstrated no cognitive issues. It also said I ‘navigated the test centre well’. I couldn’t believe it.

"When I walked into the assessment room, I fell over right away. I knocked over a chair and managed to grab a second chair to keep me upright. It was clear that I had mobility and balance issues. I decided to take them to a tribunal, at which point they decided to back down. I think they just wanted to see what they could get away with.” 

The MS Society says it is asking the Government to review and overhaul the PIP process, ensuring it more accurately reflects how people are impacted by living with MS.

St Helens Star: Rob, from Newton-le-Willows, has MSRob, from Newton-le-Willows, has MS (Image: .)

Anastasia Berry, Policy Manager at the MS Society, added: “It’s the 10th anniversary of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but we aren’t celebrating. Living with MS can be exhausting, painful and debilitating. Yet on top of managing gruelling symptoms, too many people with MS like Rob are forced to fight for the basic support they’re entitled to. MS is a progressive, incurable condition, which will usually worsen over time. Yet people with MS are regularly reassessed and made to prove their condition hasn’t improved.   

“Ten years of a broken PIP system has meant a decade of stress, indignity and humiliation for people with MS. And our latest report, ‘MS and PIP: a decade of failure’, reveals the devastating impact it can have on both physical and mental health. Politicians across parliament don’t have a plan to make PIP right, but we can’t allow this to continue. The Government must fix PIP now and stop failing people with MS.”   

  •   See the petition at mssociety.org.uk/fix-pip.