A drastically-revised impact assessment of changes to mobility allowance says 428,000 people will lose out. That’s bad news for disabled people, and bad news for the UK motor industry
Getting around is about to get a whole lot harder for a whole lot more disabled people – about 428,000 of them over the next five years – according to the government.
Its revised assessment of the impact of imminent disability benefit reforms shows that 150,000 more people than expected will no longer qualify for the higher rate mobility allowance payments that make it possible for them to lease an adapted Motability car.
When the government consulted on this change last year, it estimated that 280,000 disabled people would be affected by 2016. The new figure, then, is a dramatic increase, even within the new extended five year timescale, and one that means many more disabled people will now start having to get used to less freedom and independence, with profound implications for them and their families. Many thousands who rely on mobility allowance to get them to and from work may have to give up their job.
The paralympian and campaigner Baroness Grey-Thompson told the BBC this morning she feared the changes, which will kick in from April when Personal Independence Payments (PIP) start to replace Disability Living Allowance, would leave many disabled people
ghettoised and excluded from society
It could be that over 400,000 disabled people won’t get support – and that means they won’t get help with transport, maybe getting their children to school or to getting work, and this really radically changes how disabled people are able to integrate into society.
According to the campaign group Spartacus in its new report Emergency Stop, this means that there could be 160,000 fewer Motability cars on the road by 2018. That’s not good news for the UK motor industry (as I’ve written before), and not good news either for disabled people who are currently in work or seeking work. An Oxford Economics report commissioned by Motability in 2010 found that:
The Motability [car] scheme is estimated to enable 12,500 customers and informal carers to get a job, 56,100 to keep a job and in total this is worth £1.2 billion in gross wages per year
Ministers might argue that PIP is not intended as a work support payment – it has a separate Access to Work scheme. But campaigners point out that mobility allowance is not just about getting to the office and back, but about a broader picture of access, integration, independence, human rights and equality. Here’s campaigner Jane Young, describing how mobility allowance supported her over 17 years of family life:
A succession of adapted Motability cars has enabled me to take on the variety of roles and responsibilities that accompany successive phases of family and working life. When I was struggling in the mid-1990s to parent my young boys while coming to terms with a progressive, painful and debilitating condition, my adapted car enabled me to take them to playgroup, nursery, school, out-of-school activities, medical appointments and play-dates. As they grew up, I took the opportunity to take on more demanding work, starting with a job at a disability charity, and my car enabled me to travel all over England.
The dramatic uplift in the numbers of people losing support, reckons Spartacus, is possibly down to a dramatic tightening of the criteria for mobility allowance under PIP. The original government consultation on PIP proposed that anyone who could walk “reliably, repeatedly, safely and in a timely manner” to a distance of 50m would lose mobility allowance; campaigners were shocked when new guidance emerged last month drastically scaling down the qualifying distance to 20m.
It is not clear why this rescaling took place, or who suggested it, because despite ministers assertions that they have “listened and acted on the huge amount of consultation we have had with disabled people and disability groups,” Spartacus says only one organisation out of 173 responding to the consultation suggested a lower distance criteria.
Nor has the change been debated in parliament. Young wonders whether this is:
because government has already decided that this is about saving money rather than meeting need?
Surely not. As the disabilities minister Esther McVey stated in the Commons last month:
The Government is committed to enabling disabled people to fulfil their potential and play a full role in society.