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Friday, 21 April 2017

Disabled people can keep adapted cars for longer amid eligibility changes

Written by Jon Vale

Ministers have unveiled changes that will allow disabled people to keep their specially adapted cars and other vehicles for longer should they have their benefits withdrawn.

Those who lose eligibility for the Motability scheme will now be able to keep their cars for up to six months, including through any appeals to try and get the decision overturned.

It comes after figures from the Motability charity showed more than 50,000 people had had their cars taken away since 2013, 45% of all cases assessed as claimants transferred over from disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payments (PIP).

More than 3,000 people had these cars returned after appeal, prompting calls by MPs and campaigners for claimants to be able to keep their cars should they appeal their decision.

Work and pensions minister Penny Mordaunt (pictured) said: "Being able to get around is fundamental to living independently, which is why the Motability scheme is valued by so many people.

"These changes will give peace of mind to many people going through the appeals process.

"I'm glad that we've been able to work together with Motability to reinforce our commitment to help disabled people in their day-to-day lives."

Those who choose to keep their vehicle for six months will be offered a reduced package of transitional support by Motability, which currently stands at £2,000.

Other changes unveiled in a written ministerial statement by Ms Mordaunt include allowing everyone who loses eligibility to be able to keep their cars for eight weeks, rather than the current limit of three.

Lord Sterling, chairman and co-founder of Motability, said: "Some five years ago, my fellow governors and I recognised that the introduction of PIP would be a major change to disability benefits and that many disabled people might need our help and support during the period of transition.

"Since 2013, our transitional support package has helped over 50,000 disabled people who can no longer use the scheme, to retain mobility outside of it.

"The additional support that we are now able to provide, as outlined in the minister's statement today, will help many scheme customers, including those who are in the process of reconsideration or appeal."

The statement also outlines changes so people will be able to reclaim PIP far quicker after they go abroad.

Currently people lose their entitlement to PIP after 13 weeks overseas and have to make a new claim once they return to the UK.

Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: "Motability are to be praised for supporting disabled people, but today's announcement only mitigates part of the problems wrought by the Government's poorly administered reassessment scheme.

"There remain 900 disabled people a week losing their vehicles because of changes brought about by the Government on who qualifies for Motability access.

"We need assessors to have a better understanding of disabilities, and the Department for Work and Pensions to revert the reassessment rules to the well-supported and evidenced system we had in place before 2013."

The new rules will apply specifically to those transferring over from DLA to PIP.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "This is too little, too late for disabled people, given that over 50,000 are having their Motability cars removed by this Government.

"This is a thinly-veiled election bribe.

"If the Government really cared about disabled people, they would have done this a long time ago, and wouldn't have introduced such punitive and unjust cuts, including for personal independence payments affecting over 160,000 people with chronic mental health conditions, and to employment support allowance affecting half a million sick and disabled people.

"Only Labour will stick up for disabled people, who have already borne the brunt of seven years of austerity."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.