The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has refused to admit that it plans to tighten eligibility for support for people with the highest mobility needs, despite proof in its own documents.
Last month, DWP published the final assessment criteria that will decide eligibility for the new personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for working-age disability living allowance (DLA).
The documents showed the government has tightened eligibility for the top – “enhanced” – rate of the mobility component of PIP.
Previous drafts of the criteria stated that a claimant who could not walk at least 50 metres would be entitled to the enhanced rate, making them eligible to lease a Motability vehicle. But this has now been slashed to just 20 metres.
Sir Bert Massie, who chaired the former Disability Rights Commission, has described the change as “extremely disturbing” and “draconian”, while Helen Dolphin, of Disabled Motoring UK said the “last minute” changes were “pretty outrageous”.
Jane Young, coordinator of the WeAreSpartacus network, has described how she and fellow campaigners were “shocked and stunned” when they saw the final PIP criteria and realised how many more people would lose the cars they lease through the Motability scheme.
These and other changes will – by 2015 – see 20,000 fewer disabled people eligible for the enhanced rate than under the previous version of the PIP regulations, with this gap rising to 51,000 by 2018.
But DWP insisted last month that it was merely “clarifying” the regulations and that the number of people receiving the enhanced rate as a result of the change from 50 metres to 20 metres will remain “broadly the same”.
When Disability News Service attempted this week to confirm the impact of the changes, DWP refused to add to its original statements.
A DWP press officer said: “You have put your point-of-view forward and we have put ours. It is for those organisations and the public to make up their minds.”
He refused to comment further on the new criteria.
10 January 2013