Thousands of disabled people have had their adapted cars and mobility scooters taken away from them after being put through cruel benefit assessments, charity Motability has recently revealed.
MPs and campaigners are demanding action after 51,000 people had their Motability vehicles withdrawn following a personal independence payment (PIP) assessment. This figure represents almost half of all cases reassessed under PIP since it launched in 2013.
One mother with multiple sclerosis (MS) was left without her Motability car for nearly a year based on nothing more than a PIP assessor tickling her hand with a feather. Sam Adams, 41, was denied the higher rate of PIP when she was reassessed last year despite having collapsed in the past after losing all the strength in her legs. She recalled how her assessor decided that she could walk the required distance despite not having seen her move.
Ms Adams explained: “How she came to that conclusion when she’s not seen me walk, she’s not seen me walk up and down stairs — all she did was tickle my hand with a feather. “hat conclusions she was coming to from tickling my hand with a feather I’ll never know.” Ms Adams was forced to fight her case through a tribunal to overturn the decision and won.She hopes to have her Motability car back by the end of April.
Ms Adams is one of more than 3,000 people, out of the 51,000 affected, who have successfully overturned their PIP assessment, forcing the government to put them back on the Motability scheme. Labour’s former work and pensions minister Angela Eagle warned that in the worst cases people are having the ability to live their life taken away, leaving some housebound. Conservative backbencher Peter Bone said: “You need it for mobility purposes and maybe you use it for work, but because you lose your PIP award you lose the car at the same time. You appeal against the PIP award and ultimately the tribunal awards you back the PIP, but you’ve already lost the car and maybe your job because of it.”
Muscular Dystrophy UK said that 900 cars are being taken away every week as more disabled people have their PIP rejected. The charity’s campaigns director Nic Bungay said: “Each of the 51,000 vehicles being taken away is a story about a disabled person’s independence being compromised. This is having a devastating effect on quality of life.”
The charity is demanding the government reverse a change in the rules that means to qualify for the higher rate of PIP a person must be unable to walk unaided for 20 metres. Under the disability living allowance (DLA), which PIP replaced, the distance was 50m.
Disabled People Against Cuts founder Linda Burnip said the “ridiculous” situation is costing the government more as it’s forcing disabled workers onto the more expensive access to work schemes. She warned that the lack of medical skills of the assessors is seeing those with qualifications in childcare making decisions about vital funding for disabled people.
The Motability scheme entitles disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair using part of their benefit. They are specially adapted for the claimant’s individual needs. The Department for Work and Pensions said it constantly reviews its processes to ensure they are working in the best possible way.