People with disabilities are being priced out of gyms and leisure facilities across Perth and Kinross, a leading health charity has claimed.
MS Society Scotland argues Live Active Leisure’s unique membership policy discriminates against those living with the condition and blocks them from getting crucial exercise.
The trust, which operates leisure services across the region, is the only organisation of its kind in Scotland that does not offer concessionary memberships to people on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or in receipt of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Steve Cutler, activities volunteer at the MS Society Perth and Kinross group said: “Without going to the gym, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as mobile as I am now.
“My GP always tells me how important exercise is for helping with my MS symptoms.”
“The fact that some people living with MS are missing out on benefiting from regular exercise because of Live Active Leisure’s policy is unacceptable.”
The charity says MS can increase living costs by around £200 per week. PIP, a benefit that is replacing DLA, is paid to help people manage the extra costs of additional care and mobility needs.
Many local people who are living with MS are socially prescribed gym membership by their GPs but have been unable to afford to continue using local services because of costs, the MS Society said.
Studies have shown exercise can help people manage common symptoms including fatigue, muscle spasms and balance.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland said: “We know that regular exercise can be hugely beneficial in helping to manage common MS symptoms, so it is extremely disappointing Live Active Leisure do not include PIP and DLA as accepted benefits for concessionary memberships.
“People affected by MS and other disabilities in Perth and Kinross are being unfairly disadvantaged by LAL’s policy and this needs to change.”
She said: “We know that living with MS can add £10,000 a year in additional living costs, so we urged LAL to reconsider its policy and recognise these benefits in their concessions scheme.”
Ian Hutton, Wellbeing Manager for LAL said the trust had a “substantial wellbeing offer” providing additional support for anyone living with physical, mental or long-term health issues.
“This wide-reaching support comes in various forms including subsidised venue and community based classes, one-to-one sessions, and discounted membership options.
“We also offer free access to carers for individuals who require personal support whilst using our facilities.”
“Activity referrals, and the overall wellbeing programme development, are carried out in close partnership with GPs, physiotherapists, dieticians and other healthcare professionals and services.
“In addition to this we have an extensive concessions policy which is primarily based around customers who are in receipt of low income benefits; an approach which allows everyone in Perth and Kinross the opportunity to live an active lifestyle.
“This currently ensures concession rates are offered to individuals in receipt of long term incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, carers allowance, job seekers allowance, working tax credit, income support and council tax reduction and housing benefit, amongst others.”