The chancellor is facing allegations of “astounding hypocrisy” after being pictured handing a disabled man the keys to a Motability car, despite being responsible for slashing spending on the disability benefit used to lease such vehicles.
George Osborne, who was attending a public relations event organised by Motability in his constituency, praised the “fantastic” scheme and its impact on supporting disabled people’s independence.
MPs are frequently pictured by Motability handing over vehicles to disabled constituents, but Osborne is a controversial choice because it was he who announced cuts of 20 per cent to spending on disability living allowance (DLA) in 2010.
Because of these cuts, Motability has estimated that 100,000 of its customers will have to hand the keys of their vehicles back when they lose their eligibility to the higher rate of mobility benefit in the move from DLA to the new personal independence payment (PIP).
Government figures suggest that 400,000 fewer disabled people will be eligible for a Motability vehicle in 2018 as a result of the reforms, compared with the situation if DLA had not been reformed.
Osborne was pictured handing the keys to a new Ford Kuga to Rory Moss, a Motability customer since 1996, at the TrustFord dealership in Wilmslow, Cheshire.
Moss has ms and can only walk a few paces, so has to use an electric wheelchair. His new car has been fitted with an electric hoist so he can load and store his wheelchair.
He said: “My car provides me with a lifeline and without it I would be completely stuck indoors, especially as my wheelchair is so bulky.
“Although I am unable drive anymore, my carers can drive me wherever I need to be.”
Moss was unavailable for further comment.
Osborne said: “It is a great pleasure to be here and present my constituent Rory with the keys to his new Motability car.
“I am also delighted to meet those who work for Motability and others associated to this fantastic scheme, which supports many people, like Rory, with their independence.”
John McArdle, co-founder of the user-led grassroots campaign group Black Triangle, said Osborne was guilty of “astounding hypocrisy”, with hundreds of thousands of disabled people set to lose their eligibility for a Motability vehicle as a result of his cuts.
Michelle Maher, from the WOWcampaign, said: “The sight of Osborne handing over keys to a mobility car, knowing that thousands will lose theirs, highlights the hypocrisy and cynicism behind the way this government views its obligations towards equality and inclusion of disabled people into society.”
She pointed out that a September 2013 report for the government found that the “vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives”.
But she said the government claimed to be treating physically and non-physically disabled people equally.
Maher said the campaign was worried that the government saw its equality duty as “simply to treat all disabled people in the same way, rather than to promote equality of opportunity between disabled and yet-to-be-disabled people”.
She added: “The face of hypocrisy is Osborne, the faces of suffering are the thousands caught in a never-ending cycle, the cost of which is immeasurable.”
No-one from Osborne’s constituency or Westminster offices has so far responded to a request for a comment from Disability News Service.
24 July 2014