The number of disabled people eligible for a Motability vehicle solely on the grounds of a physical impairment could be set to plunge to just one-third of its current level within four years, government figures suggest.
The new concerns emerged after the Commons work and pensions committee published responses from the government to five questions that disabled people’s minister Mike Penning had been unable to answer when giving evidence to the committee last month.
Among the answers were new statistics relating to the introduction of personal independence payment (PIP), which is replacing working-age disability living allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) then confirmed to Disability News Service that by May 2018 – as revealed in its response to the most recent PIP consultation – only an estimated 238,000 disabled people will be claiming the enhanced mobility rate of PIP solely on the grounds of the barriers they face in moving around.
DWP figures show there will be a total of 602,000 people receiving the enhanced rate of mobility support under PIP by 2018, but only 238,000 of them will be claiming solely on the grounds of physical difficulties moving around.
DWP confirmed that – although it does not have exact figures – the “majority” of the 985,000 working-age people currently claiming the equivalent higher rate mobility component of DLA are receiving it for “primarily physical impairments”.
This – along with analysis of the “main” disabling condition for all DLA claimants – suggests that the number of disabled people receiving the higher rate of the mobility benefit solely on the grounds of a physical mobility impairment could plunge to less than one-third of its current level by 2018.
Losing the right to claim the enhanced rate of mobility support – whether through DLA or PIP – means claimants can no longer use that money to secure a vehicle through the Motability scheme.
Jane Young, an independent consultant who advises DWP on aspects of the PIP reforms, said: “It is such a tiny number of people. I was really, really shocked. It is alarmingly low.
“In a country with a population the size of ours, for only 238,000 disabled people to be deemed to have sufficiently significant physical mobility difficulties for proper help is completely outrageous.”
A DWP spokesman said: “The assessment criteria have been designed to target support at those who need it most – those who face the greatest barriers to living independent lives.
“They have also been designed to better reflect today’s understanding of all disability.”
He added: “In the past, higher rate mobility was focussed on individuals with a physical disability; now claimants will be able to get the enhanced rate if their condition means they cannot plan and follow a familiar journey unassisted.
“These figures need to be balanced by the fact that nearly 75 per cent of the current caseload will continue to receive an award under PIP.”
But Young said: “The DWP’s idea of fairness, in which disabled people with physical mobility difficulties have their support reduced while more support is given to people with difficulties planning and following a journey, does not appear to bear any relation to the legal concept of equality, for example in the Equality Act.
“It is unacceptable to use this ‘rebalancing’ to justify removing vital support for independent mobility from people with significant walking difficulties, which will seriously compromise their independence.”
Disabled people who replied to a public consultation last year on the government’s decision to decrease the PIP walking distance criteria from 50 to 20 metres said that losing their Motability vehicle would “give them a significantly reduced quality of life”, increase their social isolation, prevent them working and have an impact on their family life and their mental and physical health.
16 January 2014