Call for cooperation between UK and Scottish ministers to improve payment assessments for Multiple Sclerosis

13 Nov 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called on UK ministers to work with the Scottish government to improve disability assessments for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Mr Carmichael previously backed the MS Society’s campaign for a full review of the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

The share of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is much higher in both Orkney and Shetland than across Scotland and the UK as a whole. Orkney has the highest prevalence of MS in the world, with 402 per 100,000 people in Orkney living with MS. The rate for Shetland is 295 per 100,000 people compared to 145 per 100,000 in mainland Scotland.

The MS Society has active groups in both Orkney and Shetland. The local MS Society group in Orkney runs various courses and services including Art Classes, Fatigue Management, Physiotherapy Sessions and Reiki. Our Shetland group runs services including Chiropractic Services, Talking Therapy and a Taxi Service.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“Orkney has the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis of anywhere in the world, so we have seen the problems that have been caused by Personal Independence Payment assessments that don’t cope properly with fluctuating conditions. We of course now have the Adult Disability Payment in Scotland, but this still also has some of the same eligibility criteria.

“So can I ask him, as he carries out that review, that he works with Scottish ministers to make sure that we have a system that works for every MS sufferer, wherever they are in the United Kingdom?”

Responding for the government, Minister of State for Work and Pensions Tom Pursglove MP said:

“It’s fair to say that I have a collaborative and strong working relationship with Scottish ministers. One of the things that I will be keen to talk to them about is the tests and trials that we are introducing. that I hope will help to better capture fluctuating health conditions, and help people to be able to provide all of the evidence as early as possible, so that we can get the right decisions. We should certainly look to work UK-wide where we can.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“Both Orkney and Shetland have a high prevalence of MS which makes reform of the assessment process a more personal issue for us here. UK and Scottish ministers need to learn from one another to make the system work better for those involved – and recognise that the conditions of MS do not work in the same way as many other illnesses.

“We need to judge changes to disability assessment not by the process but by the outcome – by improving flexibility, reducing unnecessary roadblocks and improving support for those suffering.”