14,000 Disabled People Lose Their Mobility Cars Due To Government Cuts

Nearly 14,000 disabled people have had their mobility cars taken away following government welfare cuts to disability services.

Disabled drivers are allowed to lease adapted cars, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs through the Motability Scheme, with the aid of government funding. However, due to recent changes brought in by the government, nearly 14,000 disabled people have lost their cars.

According to figures released by the BBC, around half the people being reassessed for their disability support have had to hand back their Motability vehicles, many of which would have been specially adapted to meet the needs of their disabled owners. Campaigners have warned that this could result in many people with disabilities losing their independence.

In response to the concerns voiced by disability groups and the press, the government state that the new process is fair, and if people are not happy with the decision they can appeal.

Currently around 650,000 people make use of the Motability Scheme using their government-funded mobility allowance. The scheme also covers adaptations needed for the individual client according to their needs, including modifications such as adding wheelchair hoists or adapting cars to operate using hand controls.

The new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that has started to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) requires all new claimants as well as existing DLA claimants to attend a face-to-face assessment to establish their level of allowance. People are scored on a points basis, and only those scoring 12 points or over will qualify for PIP support, which is £57.45 per week at the current level.

Of those people who were originally claiming the higher rate of DLA, 31,200 have been reassessed for PIP so far, and only 55% of those people have managed to keep their car. That equates to just 17,300 people qualifying for the Motability Scheme. The remaining 45%, or 13,900 people, had failed to score enough points to qualify them for the scheme, so they have lost their cars as a result.
There has been a lot of criticism levelled at the new reassessment tests under PIP, with many disabled people claiming they were being assessed by people with either zero or very little medical knowledge. One lady named Christine Mitchell had to attend an assessment when she was moved over from DLA to PIP. Christine was born with spina bifida and is also an amputee, but despite carrying these quite obvious disabilities, she claimed that her assessor had absolutely no clue about what she was doing. She didn’t even know what spina bifida was.

Christine’s disabilities mean that she can only walk a very few steps, but her assessor didn’t seem to understand Christine’s condition at all, and as a result she didn’t score the required points. She made an appeal against the decision and eventually won, but felt that she should never have been put in that position in the first place.

According to government figures, around 360,000 people will eventually be transferred over from DLA and will have to undergo PIP reassessments, including those currently on an “indefinite” or “lifetime” DLA award with permanent disabilities. Children currently under DLA will remain as they are until the age of 16 where they will be reassessed for PIP. Those who were aged 65 or over on 8 April 2013 are also unaffected.

In an interview with the BBC, Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, told the BBC “being disabled costs money, but many people are being denied the benefit because they are not assessed properly. When people lose their cars it can be a massive blow which impacts on their ability to remain independent, take part in their communities or get and keep a job.”

The government hopes to save £2bn as a result of the switch from DLA to PIPs.

Prosthetic Arm for Disabled Kids made from Lego wins Top Award in Paris

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We all know how creative Lego can be, and a prosthetic arm made from Lego that allows children to customise to suit their needs has won the grand Digital Innovation Prize at the Netexplo forum for digital technology in Paris.

Columbian designer Carlos Torres, a former intern at Lego’s Future Lab research department, created the arm to be compatible with Lego parts that can be customised with different shapes, colours and accessories. The designer wanted to help children in need of a prosthetic arm to feel less isolated, and make their disability less of a stigma or burden to them. The arm uses a combination of technology and imagination to help children overcome their handicap.

The Netexplo forum has been running for nine years, and explores innovation in digital technology via a network across 20 universities around the world. This year the event co-founder Thierry Happe said the Netexplo Observatory had identified some 2,175 digital inventions this year alone, so the Lego prosthetic arm had some stiff competition to beat, including strong contenders such as a mobile phone app that can translate the 11 official languages of South Africa, and a Japanese robot that got good enough grades in school exams to go to the University of Tokyo.

The Lego arm, officially named the IKO Creative Prosthetic System, went on to win the Grand Prix award at the digital technology summit Netexplo. The arm can fit Lego attachments, such as a remote-control digger, onto the battery-powered arm so kids can still enjoy playing in a wide variety of ways without the limitations of a regular prosthetic arm.

Creator Carlos Arturo Torres, hopes to secure investment for its development this year. He said in a press interview that he was very happy with his design, but wasn’t expecting to win the Grand Prix. While working at Lego, he came to realise how social toys can be. He hopes that his creation can help children to work together to design their own attachments.

Mr Torres estimates the prosthetic will sell for $5,000 (£3,500) with a fee of $1,000 for each 3D-printed sockets, bought as the wearer grows out of the old ones. Children’s charity Reach, said using cheaper materials in the construction of prosthetics made them far more affordable for children and easier to maintain.

Designed to be creative and fun, the customisable prosthetic arm has Lego accessories that can be added to play with, and can be customised with different colours as well as accessories, but the battery-powered prosthetic also has a functioning hand attachment too.

The new winner is in good company and is expected to go on to achieve great success, along with previous winners of the Netexplo awards include Twitter and Slack, the business messaging start-up.

Mr Torres also commented, “My idea was not to make a traditional prosthetic, but to propose a system that was flexible enough for kids to use, hack and create with by themselves and with their friends.” His design is sponsored by Lego Future Lab, whose input he said was crucial to the final product. “They really do know kids,” he went on to say about the award-winning toymaker.

The Netexplo forum organisers said the prosthetic arm shows how technology and imagination can help children overcome disabilities.

Paralysed Former Soldier Completes Seven-Hour Daredevil Challenge

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An ex-soldier defied the odds by climbing up Pendle Hill in Lancashire, dragging his wheelchair behind him in a long seven-hour challenge.

Former soldier, Kirk Mount (28), was left paralysed from the waist down after a routine operation to fix his back went wrong. However, the dad-of-two from Elizabeth Court, Padiham, refused to let his disability prevent him from doing the things he likes, and was determined to take on this challenge not only for himself, but in the hopes of inspiring other wheelchair users.

Kirk joined the Army at aged 18 and successfully served until 2012 with 40 Regiment. He needed surgery to pin cracked vertebrae in his back, but during his operation in 2014 his spinal cord was damaged and after spending another 16 hours in surgery, he was left paralysed from the waist down.

Despite his physical limitations, Kirk took on the gruelling seven-hour challenge to climb Pendle Hill, and his inspirational efforts were captured on video. The film of his astonishing feat has been viewed online more than 22,000 times, and since the event he has been inundated with messages of support from people all over the world.

After completing the challenge, Kirk explained that the climb was mainly done on his hands and knees and with the aid of two walking sticks. While he set out to challenge himself and to inspire others, he never expected the video of his feat to go viral.

In an interview with local press, Kirk Commented, “It’s amazing isn’t it for a small bloke from Burnley? It’s been shared across the pond, I’ve had messages from people in Niagara Falls and in New Zealand. People see the wheelchair, they don’t really see the person in the wheelchair and they discriminate against it. That’s why I went up Pendle dragging the wheelchair behind me. It’s a big part of my life but on the video you see me doing something, not necessarily the wheelchair.”

The determined and driven ex-Royal Artillery gunner said his mind is already on his next challenge, and with him already enjoying such activities as off-roading on Pendle Hill and wheelchair cliff diving, it is hard to know what exciting challenge this daredevil will take on next!

Kirk has proven that he is not afraid to take on a challenge, and since becoming paralysed he has still managed to master other hobbies like horse riding, archery, shooting, swimming, wood trekking and racing over beach sand dunes.

The decision to climb Pendle, where Kirk was supported by his girlfriend Lisa Holden, was made on the spur of the moment, and he said that with each step of his improvement, he will take on more challenging tasks. Pendle Hill came up in conversation, and he then decided he would get up to the top no matter what.

Kirk commented, “It was more crawling than walking and it was really slippery. I had to keep stopping for a rest. After two minutes I was ready to quit and I thought what the hell am I doing. But I carried on and I’m 100% glad I did it.”

He believes he will need a good couple of weeks of rest to recover fully from his exhausting climb, but that will give him enough time to think about what his next challenge is going to be.