Guest blog by Jane Young, Disability Consultant, Campaigner and Spartacus Co-ordinator, originally published here
When I blogged on this topic back in January, I predicted thousands of disabled people would lose their Motability vehicles under the Government's draft criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), set to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) under the Welfare Reform Act. Yesterday, the Government published the final version of the criteria and the reality is far, far worse than we could have imagined.
Many consultation responses on the draft criteria complained that the descriptors for Activity 12 (Activity 11 in the draft), addressing physical difficulties in moving around, were unclear and confusing. We hoped they would be clarified; in particular, we expected clarification that being unable to walk more than 50 metres would qualify claimants for the enhanced mobility component and the Motability scheme. But we're stunned by the decision that to qualify for Motability, a claimant needs to be unable to walk more than 20 metres - a far shorter distance.
This has massive repercussions for the majority of Motability customers who, whilst they might be able to walk 20 metres, do nonetheless have very significant difficulties getting around. Under the second draft criteria, published in January, DWP predicted that 27% fewer working age people would be eligible for the scheme once PIP was fully rolled out. It is now clear from the Government's own figures that 42% fewer disabled people of working age will be eligible for the Motability scheme once PIP is fully rolled out than would have been eligible had DLA continued unchanged (see Personal Independence Payment: Reassessment and Impacts, published 13 December 2012).
So what will this mean for disabled people? Only those with the greatest difficulty getting around, mainly those who use a wheelchair most of the time, will qualify for the Motability scheme on grounds of physical impairment. Huge numbers of disabled people with serious musculo-skeletal conditions, serious heart conditions or respiratory difficulties, cerebral palsy, neurological conditions such as MS and ME and many, many more will no longer benefit from the scheme. Their car will simply be taken away before they have a chance to appeal.
Those who no longer qualify for Motability are likely to be unable to get to work, attend medical appointments, visit friends, go shopping or, indeed, have much of a life at all. More than a hundred thousand people, who were previously able to get out and about independently, will find themselves staring at four walls; they will need more support for essential journeys, such as medical appointments, and their quality of life will be decimated. When visiting a small supermarket, 20 metres doesn't even get you from the parking space to the entrance, never mind around the supermarket. In fact, lots of people have to walk more than 20 metres from their car to their front door when they get home again!
Disabled people who live in rural areas will be hurt the most. What little public transport is available is less likely to be accessible. There may be no local shops, no GP or pharmacy nearby; asking for a lift to the GP means asking someone to commit a considerable part of their day to drive a considerable distance.
Then there's the knock-on effect on the UK car industry and the wider economy. In our report, Reversing from Recovery, published in June this year, the Spartacus network used the DWP's own projections under the draft criteria to demonstrate the knock-on effect on the car industry and wider economy once all DLA claimants of working age had been migrated to PIP. However, under the DWP's revised projections of the number of claimants eligible for Motability, under the final PIP criteria, the effect on the car industry and economy will be much more serious:
- the car industry could lose nearly 50,000 new car sales a year (we predicted a loss of 31,450 sales under earlier projections),
- more than 5,500 jobs could be lost from the economy (we predicted a loss of just over 3,500 jobs under earlier projections)
- the Treasury could lose £126 million in tax receipts from motor-related industries (we predicted a loss of £79 million under earlier projections),
as a result of fewer claimants using the Motability scheme by the time PIP has been fully rolled out. And of course, if disabled people lose their jobs because they can no longer get to work, they will claim more in benefits and pay less tax. All in all, the original estimate of the effect on the economy was bad enough, but these figures are far worse.
For some, there is one slight cause for encouragement: the Government has listened to concerns about the speed of implementation and the necessity for evaluation and revised its timetable. DLA claimants with indefinite awards will only start to be reassessed from October 2015 - but newer claimants are more likely to have been given time-limited awards and therefore won't benefit. And without extra assurances from either side of the political divide, we have to assume that the criteria published today will eventually affect all DLA claimants, albeit with implementation taking place over a longer timetable.
Hundreds of thousands of disabled people whose cars are vital to their life and health stand to lose virtually everything. No car = no independence, no job, no salary (with a consequent risk of homelessness), no social life plus increased dependence on family members, health and social care services and other benefits to survive. This begs the question: how does this cut help disabled people to fulfill the social contract of being part of society and contributing by work, volunteering or being part of their community? Even those held up by the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, as inspirational role models will have their lives cruelly and unnecessarily restricted.
The Government has clearly paid little heed to the impact of this 'reform' on disabled people's human rights. There is no doubt that the PIP criteria for people with a physical difficulty in getting around is retrogressive under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the UK in 2009. The proposals seriously compromise disabled people's human rights under several Articles of the Convention, including, among others, the right to live independently and to be included in the community (Article 19), and the right to personal mobility, specifically to....' personal mobility with the greatest possible independence' (Article 20).
This attack on the lives of disabled people who have difficulty getting around is NOT a price worth paying. MP's on both sides of the House of Commons should vote these regulations down. The Government can, and must, do much better than this, if it really wants to build on the legacy of the Paralympics.