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.