More than 100,000 disabled people have lost their Motability vehicles after being reassessed as part of the Conservatives’ disability benefit reforms, Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.
The figures show the number of Motability customers who have had to return their vehicles after being assessed for the new personal independence payment (PIP) has now passed 100,000.
The figures were revealed after the former minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, was accused of lying about the government’s introduction of PIP when she was taking part in a local election hustings event in Basingstoke (see separate story).
Miller was a Conservative minister for disabled people between May 2010 and September 2012 and steered through the early stages of the unpopular and controversial replacement of working-age disability living allowance (DLA) with PIP, which was eventually introduced in April 2013.
The PIP reassessment process has been blamed for causing years of distress to disabled people, and making it harder for many to access work, leisure and other independent living opportunities since Tory chancellor George Osborne announced in 2010 that the government planned to cut the 1.8 million working-age people claiming DLA by 20 per cent.
Disabled campaigners repeatedly warned in the years after it was introduced in 2013 that the decision to tighten a key eligibility criterion for the enhanced mobility rate from being able to walk less than 50 metres under DLA to 20 metres under PIP was having a significant and serious impact on disabled people’s independence.
Among them was a disabled man who lost a leg to bone cancer and was left unable to travel to hospital for vital x-rays after he had to hand his Motability car back and was left virtually housebound.
DNS later spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits, with such cases continuing to come in two years later.
And in September, DNS revealed that PIP claimants are now almost twice as likely to win their tribunal appeal than DLA claimants were almost a decade ago.
Miller told her Labour opponent on Monday that the higher mobility component of DLA “was actually designed for people who couldn’t walk”.
In fact, the higher mobility component was for people who had severe walking difficulties and for those who could only walk a short distance – less than 50 metres – without severe discomfort, as well as those who could not walk at all.
Kerena Marchant, Miller’s Labour opponent, who is a Deaf user of British Sign Language, had told the former minister that 80,000 disabled people had lost their Motability vehicles because of the government’s reforms, restricting their ability to leave their homes.
DNS has now secured updated figures from Motability, with a spokesperson for the charity saying today (Thursday): “As of 1 November 2019, some 101,000 customers have lost their eligibility to the scheme meaning they would have had to return their vehicle after a DLA-PIP reassessment.”
Marchant said: “The current criteria for the enhanced mobility of PIP fails disabled people who are virtually unable to walk.
“It is a scandal that one of the richest countries in the world has made 101,000 disabled people prisoners in their own homes due to a barbaric PIP descriptor for enhanced mobility.
“I pledge that if I am elected I will campaign to change the enhanced mobility descriptor of PIP, which no parties have addressed in their manifestos.”
Marchant said this was another reason why there needed to be more than the one per cent [approximately] of MPs who are disabled people in the last parliament.
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