A serious threat to the mobility of disabled and sick people

By Jane Young
27 Dec 2012

On Thursday 13 December 2012, Esther McVey MP, Minister for Disabled People in the UK government, announced the publication of the draft Personal Independence Payment (PIP) regulations [1] containing the final proposals for PIP. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also published its response to the assessment consultation [2] and a document assessing the impacts of the final proposals [3].

Many of the daily living descriptors have been improved, although there are still issues with some of them. However, it is stunning to see that to be awarded the enhanced mobility component for physical difficulty getting around, and therefore to qualify for Motability, a claimant needs to be unable to walk more than 20 metres – a far shorter distance than the 50 metres given in the consultation draft [4].

An essential element of the PIP assessment is that it should take account of whether claimants can undertake each activity ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner’. However, the Government has not only decided to roll this phrase into the word ‘reliably’, but has also stated that this will not be included or defined within the regulations themselves. The concern is that this will mean this essential qualifying definition cannot be considered by an appeal tribunal and could be changed by the DWP with ease, at any time.

The Government has, however, 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 from the delay. However, we have to assume that the criteria published today will eventually affect all DLA claimants, albeit with implementation taking place over a longer timetable, finishing in 2018.

It is clear that those most likely to lose out are physically disabled people with significant walking difficulties who can walk more than 20 metres but less than 50 metres; this problem will be exacerbated by the exclusion of ‘reliably’ etc from the regulations.

In fact, DWP’s own projections show that by 2018, when implementation is complete, 428,000 fewer disabled people will be in receipt of the enhanced mobility component of PIP than the number that would be expected to be in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of DLA if it remained as it is now.

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.

Many thousands 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.

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 obvious question: how does this cut help disabled people participate in society and contribute by work, volunteering or being involved in their community? Even Paralympians and others held up by the Minister for Disabled People as inspirational role models may have their lives cruelly and unnecessarily restricted.

The PIP criteria for people with a physical difficulty getting around are clearly 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 (Article 20).

Further details of the implications of so many losing eligibility for the Motability scheme due to physical difficulties getting around are available at: http://janeyoung.me.uk/2012/12/14/well-over-100000-to-lose-motability-ve...

The Government has said no more changes will be made at this point, although a committee of MP’s still has to vote the regulations through. To help you persuade your MP that these regulations must be changed, we have produced some resources to help:

* The Hardest Hit consortium has created a tool to help people email their MP - http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/pip-emergency-act-now/
* We Are Spartacus have produced an Initial briefing note for MP’s and Peers on PIP regulations (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document) - http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Initial-briefing...
* Some artistic Spartaci have produced graphics/photos to help MP’s to understand just how short a distance 20 metres represents - http://but-you-dont-look-sick.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/act-now-to-fight-fo...
* Action for ME have produced a template letter to help people with ME write to their MP - http://www.actionforme.org.uk/get-informed/news/policy-and-campaigns/wri...

References

1. The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2013/9780111532072/contents (See Schedule 1 for the activities and descriptors)
2. “The Government’s response to the consultation on the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and regulations”, December 2012: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pip-assessment-thresholds-and-consultation-re...
3. “Personal Independence Payment: Reassessment and Impacts”, December 2012 http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pip-reassessments-and-impacts.pdf
4. To get the enhanced mobility component of PIP, you need to accrue 12 points from either the first or second mobility activity in Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the PIP regulations. The first activity (Activity 11 in other DWP documents) covers difficulties with planning or following a journey (generally due to a learning difficulty, sensory impairment or mental health problem) and the second activity (Activity 12 in other DWP documents) covers physical difficulties in getting around. To get 12 points from the second activity alone, you have to be unable to stand then move more than 20 metres. In summary, the criteria mean that if you have no difficulties with planning or following a journey and you can walk more than 20 metres, you will not be awarded the enhanced mobility component and you will not be eligible for the Motability scheme.

This article is reproduced, with grateful acknowledgement, from the We Are Spartacus website - http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-emergency-act-now/

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© Jane Young is a disability consultant and campaigner, having previously been Disability Equality and Access Officer for Kingston Council in London. She has wide professional experience in relation to disability, social care and related issues and is active within the Spartacus (http://wearespartacus.org.uk) network, and other initiatives for the rights and dignity of disabled and sick people. More information about Jane, along with her writing, can be found here: http://janeyoung.me.uk/

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