August 24, 2012 • 4:25 pm

“The cuts will be shocking: 90,000 motability cars and scooters will be repossessed.”

The Guardian, 23 August 2012

As part of the belt-tightening tactics of the Treasury, the disability allowance scheme is set to change. By April 2013, the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will be replaced with the Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

The switch means that the criteria needed to receive certain payments will change. A recent Guardian article put numbers to these changes, and claimed that 280,000 will be shrugged off the standard for receiving the higher level mobility payments. A concomitant result would supposedly be the repossession of 90,000 vehicles adapted for mobility used by these people.

Analysis

The Guardian’s claim can be found in Disability Rights UK’s response to the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) “Personal Independence Payment: assessment criteria and thresholds consultation”, which was published in January this year:

“The consultation document makes clear that 280,000 disabled people who would have been eligible for high rate mobility under DLA by 2015/16 will no longer be eligible for PIP. This is likely to result in Motability removing 90,000 accessible vehicles and scooters for example from the road.”

But what’s the story behind these estimations? Why do the changes mean that so many vehicles will be taken from the road?

The debate is centred around those losing their eligibility to use the “Motability Scheme”, a scheme run by Motability, a charity enabling disabled people to use their disability allowance from the government to lease cars, wheelchairs or scooters to get around.

Currently, to be eligible for the Motability Scheme, a person must receive the higher rate mobility component of the DLA. The claim in the Guardian and by Disability Rights UK therefore means that 280,000 will lose this eligibility.

The difference between DLA and PIP mobility components

Both the DLA and PIP involve two channels of payment to accommodate different types of costs incurred by different disabilities. The care component pays out to those needing help with personal care, and the mobility component shells out to help people who have problems walking or getting around.

The DLA’s mobility component is split into two levels, the higher rate and the lower rate. The full list of criteria are available here, but, essentially, to be entitled to the lower rate, a person must “need guidance or supervision out of doors”. Criteria for the higher rate and therefore to have the option to join the Motability Scheme include being unable or virtually unable to walk without severe discomfort.

However, with the onset of PIP, a new set of criteria for the mobility component will be drawn up. It is operated on a point scale of need. To be deemed eligible for the standard rate (equivalent to the DLA’s “lower rate”), a person must have at least 8 points. To be eligible for the enhanced rate (or “upper” under DLA), a person must have at least 12 points.

Essentially, however, simply “needing guidance or supervision out of doors” is not enough to guarantee a claimant the standard mobility rate. To receive the rate, the claimant must at least be deemed unable to move more than 50 metres unaided.

To receive the enhanced rate and have the option of the Motability Scheme, the claimant must be at least unable to move up to 50 metres without using a self-propelled wheelchair.  

What does the change mean numbers-wise?

In the DWP’s consultation on PIP thresholds, an estimate is given for how many would be eligible for PIP by 2015/16, as well as the number of people projected to be on DLA by 2015/16 if the disability allowance system stayed the same.

All in all, if DLA remained, an estimated 900,000 people would receive the lower mobility rate DLA and 1,040,000 would receive the upper mobility rate by 2015/16. In comparison, the number of people on PIP’s standard mobility rate would be 550,000 by 2015/16, with 760,000 receiving enhanced mobility rate.

So 280,000 fewer people are projected to receive the higher rate than would otherwise be the case. But how can we tell that 90,000 Motability vehicles will be repossessed by that time?  

Full Fact contacted Disability Rights UK, who explained that the estimation was calculated by applying Motability’s estimation that 1 in 3 of those receiving the upper mobility rate use the Motability Scheme, based on the official estimate of 280,000 losing the upper mobility rate eligibility by 2015/16.

This does indeed work out at “about 93,000 vehicles/scooters being returned/withdrawn/sold on/repossessed.” Of course, the problem here is determining whether the 280,000 people losing out in 2015/16 will actually be a representative sample of current claimants or whether they represent those ‘on the cusp’ of eligibility now and so possibly less likely to be claiming motability vehicles.

Motability in turn informed Full Fact that it serves 600,000 people with accessible vehicles and just under two million disabled people, according to the latest DWP figures, receive the upper mobility rate, the scheme came up with this figure as a working estimation.

Conclusion

Official estimates indicate that, by 2015/16, there will be 280,000 fewer people receiving the upper mobility component, due to the different assessment criteria for PIP.

Given that Motability currently serves 600,000 customers out of around 1.8 million currently in receipt of the higher component of DLA. If this rate of usage were applied to the expected loss of claimants under PIP, there would indeed be 90,000 losses of Motability vehicles.

What we don’t know, however, is whether this rate would indeed apply to the 280,000 fewer claimants, given that these people would, for whatever reason, no longer fall under the requirements for receiving the higher rate, and thus would be an exceptional cohort. It’s possible they would be precisely the people who don’t tend to claim motability anyway, and so we might not expect this many vehicles to be lost.

So it might be overstepping the mark to claim there “will” be 90,000 motability cars and scooters lost under the reforms. The figure certainly has some basis in the official figures, but we’d need a more solid impact assessment to determine how precise this estimate actually is.

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