Peers try to smuggle new Motability support into up-rating bill


theweek120by150Disabled peers have appealed to ministers to prevent the “chaos” set to be caused by tens of thousands of disabled people having their Motability vehicles removed, because of planned government cuts to disability benefits.

Both Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson and Lord [Colin] Low called for the coalition to offer protection to those disabled people who will be forced to hand back their Motability vehicles as a result of disability living allowance (DLA) reform.

Peers heard that 400,000 disabled people were likely to lose their right to a Motability vehicle when the government scraps DLA for working-age people and replaces it with its new personal independence payment (PIP), although not all of those will be Motability customers.

Baroness Grey-Thompson teamed up with fellow crossbench peer Lord Alton to propose an amendment to the controversial welfare benefits up-rating bill that they believe would alleviate the impact of the government’s plans.

Baroness Grey-Thompson told peers during the bill’s committee stage that disabled people who lost their right to the higher rate mobility component of DLA in the move to PIP, and found themselves on the PIP standard rate or without PIP altogether, could have just a few weeks before they were forced to return their car to Motability.

She said she was concerned for those who lived in areas without accessible public transport or who had needed “very expensive adaptations” to their Motability vehicles, and could be left “without an adequate method of getting around”.

She said: “The short timescale between notifying someone of their car being removed and it being taken away could make life extremely difficult. Without some further protection, it could lead to chaos for many disabled people.”

If a Motability customer won their appeal against being denied the enhanced PIP rate, they would then have to apply for another Motability vehicle and order a set of expensive new vehicle adaptations.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “If people have at least the guarantee of running through to the end of their contract for a Motability car, this would give many a more adequate time to make other provision.”

Lord Low said estimates suggested that as many as 200 disabled people in every parliamentary constituency could lose their Motability vehicles, which would mean “a large number of people who are likely to be beating a path to their MP’s surgery with a very real grievance”.

He said: “I cannot believe that the government seriously intend to proceed with a measure which will take Motability cars out of the hands of disabled people who currently rely on them for their mobility and without which they will effectively be rendered prisoners in their own house.”

Lord Alton suggested a “period of grace” for those who already have Motability vehicles and risk losing them as a result of the DLA reforms, and warned the government that the issue could come back to “haunt” them.

The amendment – which was not taken to a vote – called for the government to provide individual disabled people with enough money to continue to pay for their Motability vehicle until their lease expired, if they faced having to hand it back because their benefits had been cut.

Baroness Stowell, the Conservative peer who speaks for the government on work and pensions, said it was difficult to predict the impact of the DLA reforms on Motability customer numbers.

But she said the government was “continuing its discussions with Motability to see what arrangements can be put in place to ease this burden on people as the process of replacing DLA with PIP comes on board”, and that she would seek further information from the Department for Work and Pensions on those discussions.

The welfare benefits up-rating bill will see many benefits increased by only one per cent in 2014-15 and 2015-16, in addition to the one per cent increase already due to be implemented this year, far below the expected rate of inflation.

Although DLA and disability-related premiums will be protected from the one per cent cap, the main element of employment and support allowance (ESA) will rise by just one per cent, as will the extra element for claimants in the ESA work-related activity group, for those disabled people expected to move eventually into jobs.

26 February 2013