Scores of disabled people in East Renfrewshire have had a disability benefit stopped during extended hospital stays under a rule that charities say penalises the most vulnerable.

A new report released under Freedom of Information laws shows the total number of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) suspensions under the so-called “hospitalisation rule” in the area increased from 40 at the end of April 2020 to 70 at the end of April this year.

The figures, analysed by the BBC Shared Data Unit, were published after a court case was withdrawn which had been set to challenge the lawfulness of the rule through an application for judicial review.

Under the hospitalisation rule, a person’s entitlement to the PIP disability benefit is suspended if they have received care in a hospital or a similar institution for 28 days or more.

Critics say the rule particularly affects people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) who are more likely to have lengthy hospital stays.

They also stress that a disability does not go away when the person enters hospital and the costs incurred by family members are often higher during this time.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at learning disability charity Mencap, said people with PMLD were “more likely to fall foul of the 28-day rule” and the loss of financial help could have a detrimental impact on the ability of family members and carers to continue to provide support.

Although the judicial review case has been withdrawn, Mr Scorer added that Mencap will continue to work with affected people to challenge the rule’s fairness.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said it is committed to ensuring disabled people get all of the support to which they are entitled.

A spokesperson told the Barrhead News: “It is a long-standing rule that payment of extra costs benefits, such as PIP, is suspended after the first 28 days in a hospital or similar institution to avoid double provision from public funds.

“While the number of hospitalisation suspensions has gone up, so has the number of PIP awards. Suspensions still form a very small proportion of the overall PIP caseload.”