Controversial reforms to disability benefits have once again been brought into the political spotlight, after new figures published by the Motability charity revealed that more than 50,000 people with disabilities have lost their mobility vehicles since 2013.
Figures published by the charity on Wednesday show that 51,000 disabled people have had their mobility cars taken away after being reassessed for the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Thousands of these people have lost their vehicles while being transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP.
In order to be eligible for the Motability Scheme, people need to be in receipt of the Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA or the PIP Enhanced Rate Mobility Component. PIP is slowly replacing DLA, with the roll-out expected to be completed in the next few years.
People in receipt of the War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement or Armed Forces Independence Payment may also quality for a Motability vehicle.
A decision to cut or remove a sick or disabled person’s entitlement to these benefits can result in them also losing their mobility vehicles, which are financed through receipt of these benefits.
Official statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show that more than 160,000 people who have appealed against a decision to cut or stop their disability benefits, later had that decision overturned following mandatory reconsideration or appeal.
Around 65 per cent of all appeals result in initial decisions being overturned in the claimant’s favour. Despite this, disabled people can still have their Motability vehicles removed while a decision is being reached.
Charities, disability rights campaigners, and MPs have repeatedly called on the UK Government to urgently review the PIP system.
Disability Rights UK (DRUK) has warned that the situation faced by disabled people living in the UK is even worse than Motability’s figures suggest, and is calling for “immediate reform of disgraceful PIP mobility rules”.
In a statement published on its website, DRUK says: “The removal of Motability cars from disabled people who rely on them has devastated their independence, in many cases removed their ability to work and meant they are effectively housebound.
“However, the situation is much worse than today’s figures from Motability imply. Only a third of disabled people who are eligible are in the Motability scheme – the remaining two thirds are not.
“On this basis, around 150,000 disabled people have lost their higher mobility payments – worth £57.45 per week and a vital contribution to their extra costs of travel.
“Worryingly, the Government has so far refused to confirm PIP’s actual impact. Although it has released 12 statistical reports on PIP not one of them has said how many disabled people have been awarded the enhanced PIP mobility rate.
“DRUK had a Freedom of Information Act request refused a year ago. We asked for figures on the number of claimants that have lost their higher mobility component awards but were told “the information is intended for publication at a future date”.
“We say that future date has now come. We call on the Government to confirm that at least 150,000 disabled people have lost their enhanced mobility component since PIP was introduced with all the consequences that has for their independence.
“Allowing people to keep their Motability car whilst they appeal a PIP decision will help but on its own is simply not the answer. The rule that confines higher mobility awards only to those who can walk up to 20 metres must be scrapped. It makes no sense and was only ever a cost cutting measure.
“Instead, those awards must again include those disabled people who can only walk up to 50 metres who are bound to have the same extra costs. Otherwise we will see thousands of disabled people force to stay at home with no prospect of employment or contributing to their community.”
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said: “We know of too many cases where people have gone through the stress and anxiety of having their Motability cars taken away, only to have them returned after appeal.
“We believe more than a thousand people with MS have already had their mobility support downgraded since PIP started to replace DLA, and up to 10,000 more could lose out.
“Eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP are more strict compared to DLA.
“These changes were introduced with no evidence to show why criteria should be limited in this way.
“These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face. Having a disability like MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The reality is that, since PIP was introduced in 2013, more than two million decisions have been made; of these just 7% have been appealed and 3% have been overturned.
“But we constantly review our processes, to make sure they are working in the best way possible.
“Most people leaving the Motability scheme are eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000 to meet their needs.”