1. Personal Independence Payments (PIPs)
MNN is campaigning that the criteria for this benefit be changed so that those with a fluctuating (neurological) condition and/ or mental health issue would qualify for PIP. THe MNN is also campaigning so that those diagnosed with a neurological condition that is progressive and/ or a condition for which there is no cure, should not have to endure regular PIP assessments.
There has been a few minor changes this quarter, including the introduction of 10-Year PIP Reviews. Award lengths can now be up to 10 years, with a 'light-touch' review at the 10 year point, which hopefully will NOT involve face-to-face assessment.
Action 1: MNN is campaigning with Parkinson's UK and the other major charities, such as the MS Society, to be involved in any consultations on what a 'light-touch' review may look like. We would also like Medway's x3 MPs to make representations to HMG on this as well.
Also, MNN has been informed that some DWP decision makers are not applying the new guidance consistently, i.e. if someone with a neurological condition receives an enhanced PIP award but are not awarded a 10 year period and if they challenged this decision via a mandatory reconsideration request there remains the possibility that a decision could be made to downgrade the award. The Medway MS Group has reported that the PIP process went well. However, another member of the MS Group reported a change of circumstance only to have ALL of their previous PIP award revoked - they are currently appealing this decision.
Action 2: MNN is campaigning in support of a number of charities (inc Parkinson's UK, the MS Society & MNDa) for the DWP to take a consistent approach to the award of PIP and asks Medway's x3 MPs to encourage the DWP to take a consistent approach to all claiments.
2. Special Rules Fast Track:
Although not only in the context of PIP, the Motor Neurone Disease Association is campaigning for a change in the law so that everyone with a terminal illness can access benefits (including PIP) via the Special Rules fast track process.
All people with MND should be able to access benefits quickly using the Special Rules for Terminal Illness (SRTI). MNDa are campaigning with Marie Curie to change the law. People living with a terminal illness such as MND should be able to claim benefits without having to fill in a long form, attend a face-to-face assessment, or wait weeks for their benefits to arrive.
The SRTI process is the fast-track process for claiming benefits, meaning people do not have to go through a long and stressful assessment process. However, the SRTI requires a 'reasonable expectation of death within six months', which excludes many people with an unpredictable terminal illness like MND. MNDa would like to see the Government change the law, as Scotland has recently done, to move away from the 6 months definition towards a decision made by a clinician.
Will you help us #Scrap6Months?
Read more on SRTI: https://static.mndassociation.org/app/uploads/2019/09/17105625/ Briefing-on-SRTI-updated-September-2019.pdf
Action 3: MNN supports the MNDa campaign and encourages Medway's x3 MPs to also support it.
3. Prescription Charges:
The MNN supports the Prescription Charges Coalition campaign to end prescription charges for those with long-term conditions;
England is now the only part of the United Kingdom that charges for
prescriptions. There are a range of exemptions (e.g. relating to age, pregnancy and income), but for many Working Age people a medical exemption certificate is required for free prescriptions;
Medical exemption certificates are only available for a very limited range of conditions, based on a list that was produced in 1968 and is largely unchanged;
A prescription pre-payment certificate can reduce the cost of prescription charges if you need multiple medications. However, this is still a significant amount (£29.10 for three months or £104 for one year) on top of other costs that come with having a long-term condition. Pre-payment certificates are also not an ideal solution for people living with conditions that fluctuate or go into remission.
Latest: In June 2018 campaigners from Asthma UK, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Parkinson’s UK, handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street. The petition was signed by almost 23,000 supporters, the petition called on the HMG to scrap prescription charges for people with long-term conditions. In July The Prescription Charges Coalition heard back from the HMG:
The Health Minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy, said in his letter ‘The Government has no plans for a review of the prescription charging system in England. As you know, almost 90 per cent of prescription items are free on the NHS in England, and a broad range of prescription exemptions are in place’.
Action 4: MNN, is in support of the Prescription Charges Coalition nationally, and is campaigning
foreveryone with a long-term condition to be exempt from Prescription Charges. The MNN asks Medway's x3 MPs to support the Prescription Charges Coalition.
4. Passport for Leisure:
Medway Council opperates a scheme which allowes discounted access to all Medway Council leisure centres at specific times. However, it has been pointed out that people with fluctuating neurological conditions may not be able, due to thier heath, use the leisure centres at the times stated by the Council - we are campaiging for un-restricted by time access.
Update: The MNN has asked Tracey Crouch MP, as the Chair of the Medway Physical Disabilities Partnership Board (PDPB), both in a letter and by MNN's representative on the PDPB, to intervene on MNN's behalf as despite numerous requests over the last few years Medway Council's position remains the same:
It has never been intended that Passport to Leisure gives access to the sport centres at all times, it is designed to provide additional help to those customers who qualify for the scheme.
Action 5: As Medway Council's view has not chaged since 2015, the MNN have written to all of Medway Cllrs asking them to support MNN's position.
5. Bus Passes 1: Medway Council opperates locally a national scheme to provide those eligible with a Disabled Bus Pass. However, the same rules apply with the use of the pass as a pass issued in respect of age. The main concern is that a bus pass issued to a Working Aged disabled person cannot be used before 09:30! We have drawn the Council's attention to the fact that London Transport does allow unrestricted use of their disabled bus pass and has repeatedly asked Medway Council to follow suit. In 2018 Kelly Tolhurst MP contacted the DEpt. for Transport on MNN's behalf and their response was:
"Whilst I understand the reasons for supporting further travel concessions, there are no current plans at present to introduce a statutory national bus travel concession enhancement for disabled people in England to travel before 9.30am."
MNN is also seeking the help of Healthwatch and has written to Healthwatch Kent.
MNN is calling on HMG to distinguish between a bus pass issued on the basis of age versus a bus pass issued on the basis of disability to someone of working age. Currently the blanket, England-wide, condition that bus passes cannot be used before 9.30am is not conducive for a working age disabled person to get to work. MNN also asks Medway's x3 MPs to support this campaign.
6. Bus Passes for Young Carers:
The MNN is campaigning for Medway Council to adopt a policy that would allow residents in Medway Council area who have children registered as Young Carers to receive FREE bus passes - this policy is currently used by Kent County Council. MNN has written to Kelly Tolhurst MP, who has contacted Medway Council who have responded as follows:
"I have looked into what Kent provides Young Carers and they essentially give them the Young Persons Travel Pass for FREE. ...Our supported bus budget and concessionary bus budget is already facing budget pressure, and it is extremely unlikely that a scheme similar to the Kent option would come into Medway without significant extra funding."