A CHARITY has called for Motor Neurone Disease sufferers to be exempted from fitness-to-work tests being carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

MND Scotland, which campaigns to raise awareness of the debilitating disease, would also like them to be excused from the bedroom tax and to automatically qualify for the UK Government's new disability benefit.

Around 130 Scots a year are diagnosed with MND, but only 400 are alive at any one time, as the disease is a terminal neurological illness.

Sufferers usually quickly become severely disabled due to debilitating symptoms and have an average life expectancy of 14 months after diagnosis.

But, unlike terminal cancer patients, those with the condition are not exempt from medical testing for fitness to work under the Government's welfare reforms.

Until the recent shake-up of the benefits system, MND sufferers had been automatically awarded Incapacity Benefit.

MND Scotland spokesman Bryan Carroll said: "People with MND can lose their ability to walk, speak, feed themselves and breathe unaided.

"Their health will only deteriorate and they will not experience periods of improvement, as is potentially the case with other life-limiting illnesses.

"A diagnosis of MND is a devastating blow for a family. The last thing they expect is to be put through the mill of a DWP assessment.

"Unfortunately, as a result of the UK Government's welfare reform, this is exactly what is happening."

MND sufferers have been assessed for their fitness to work and will also face reassessment for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Mr Carroll said most people receiving high rates of Disability Living Allowance to help them pay for care or mobility had expected this to continue for the remainder of their lives, but were now facing reassessment for PIP.

Those in the social rented sector who had their homes specially adapted to meet their needs are finding they face bedroom tax on housing benefit, and in some cases are being forced to move, he claimed.

Mr Carroll said all those whom MND Scotland had supported through appeals and the assessment process had ultimately been awarded full benefits, and claimed that putting people through the assessment process was illogical and a waste of taxpayers' money.

He said: "The last months of a person's life should be spent in the loving care and support of their family – not going through highly stressful medical assessments with the anxiety that the family could have their benefits removed at any point."

The campaign is also calling for an extension to the timescale under which an illness is classified as terminal for the purpose of benefits.

Currently, the rules dictate that people are considered to have a "terminal illness" for benefits purposes only if they are expected to die within six months.

The Nationalist MSP, Christina McKelvie, has tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament backing the call for an extension.

MND sufferer Jamie Lynch, 40, of Aberdeen, was initially awarded Employment and Support Allowance after being forced to give up his job as a mechanical technician for an oil firm, three-and-a-half years ago.

Mr Lynch, who has a young daughter, was reassessed after three months and told he was fit for work by the company Atos on behalf of the DWP, but later won an appeal.

He said: "I hope this campaign means nobody else has to go through this."