DLA changes could leave people without vital mobility aids and unable to work


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Posted by The Mobility Superstore:

The government’s decision to replace working-age Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was designed to cut spending on essential financial assistance to disabled people by 20 per cent.

However, these cost-saving measures mean that an estimated 330,000 people will lose this support by 2015, and that figure could double by 2018. Because part of the allowance is there to help with the added costs of getting around, a huge proportion of the UK’s workforce may struggle to pay for the mobility aids that allow them to work.

The mobility aspect of DLA is used by many people to fund their vehicle through the Motability scheme. People who need significant alterations to their vehicle in order to make driving possible, or to carry wheelchairs and mobility scooters, could now be forced to find the substantial funds needed elsewhere. In many cases, this will take disabled people off the road and force them to quit their jobs.

Many thousands of people who have relied on DLA to get around their community for years now face a situation where the goalposts have been moved considerably. Under the ‘moving around’ criteria of PIP, the enhanced rate of the benefit will only be available to people who can move less than 20 metres without assistance, but the complex nature of disability means it is very much up for debate as to whether that qualifying criteria is the right one.

There is an inherent irony in the mobility part of PIP, because the 20-metre rule affects those who move with the help of prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, walking sticks and crutches – the very equipment that people could struggle to buy when their application for the enhanced rate is rejected!

Anyone who is judged to have the ability to move more than 50 metres will be completely ineligible for the mobility benefit, unless they also have problems with ‘planning and following journeys’. There is no doubt that DLA was abused by a very small minority of people in the past, but why should people in genuine need be penalised so severely? The thresholds for claims under the DLA system were much higher than the new levels.

There are a number of social funds available to people who can demonstrate they are experiencing financial hardship as a result of an impairment. The Regulated Social Fund provides cash in a number of circumstances, provided all of the qualifying criteria are met. One effective way of raising the money to buy mobility equipment is provided by the Discretionary Social Fund. A community grant or a crisis loan could be the only option available to you if you require equipment or home modifications in a hurry; each award decision is made on a case-by-case basis by a panel of experts.

If you’re buying specialist equipment or making essential improvements to your home, you could be eligible to reclaim the VAT you paid – cutting the cost of these purchases by up to 20 per cent. A Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) can be issued by the local council in situations where home improvements and the purchase of specialist equipment are deemed essential. These grants will usually be awarded for the fitting of ramps, hand-rails and lifting equipment. It is also possible to use the Motability scheme to lease subsidised cars and mobility scooters, if you qualify for the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA or the enhanced mobility rate of PIP.

The DLA’s own terminology demonstrates just how comprehensively these new qualifying criteria will affect lives. A condition that left someone ‘virtually unable to walk’ under the DLA guidelines could now result in someone losing their entitlement to mobility allowance under the PIP scheme altogether. Quite simply, disabled people who have worked and contributed to the exchequer for many years will suddenly find themselves unable to get to work. Where is the sense in that?

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