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Disabled People: Mobility Benefits

Volume 750: debated on Monday 2 December 2013


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of disabled people who have had access to adapted cars removed as a result of changes to their entitlement to mobility benefits.

My Lords, no such assessment has been made. The controlled approach to the reassessment of recipients of disability living allowance began only on 28 October 2013. There is not enough information yet to assess the effect this phase will have on Motability customer numbers, including those with adapted cars. In addition, the vast majority of reassessments will not start until October 2015.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that exactly 12 months ago his department estimated that by 2018 there would be 428,000 fewer enhanced mobility claimants aged 16 to 64 on the new PIP system, compared with the old system? Does he appreciate the anxiety this has caused to those dependent on these payments to finance their Motability vehicles? Will he update the House on the latest position, and do everything in his power to lift the threat felt by those people whose degree of disability almost certainly will mean that they should not lose their Motability entitlement but who, until they know, will inevitably fear the worst?

My Lords, I emphasise that we are looking to create a thorough assessment under PIP that is balanced and also looks after some of the gaps in DLA, particularly concerning people with mental health problems, who have not done as well under DLA as they should do under PIP. With regard to the concerns about the transition, we are working with Motability to put together a package of £2,000 per person for those who move off the enhanced DLA but not into PIP so that they can purchase a second-hand car at the appropriate time.

Will my noble friend tell me why his department took no notice of the responses to the 11th-hour consultation on the key moving-about descriptor in the PIP assessment? This descriptor enables a claimant to have enough points for the enhanced rate of mobility, which opens the door to the Motability car. Responses to the consultation were overwhelmingly against what the Government have proposed. I wonder why they bothered to have the consultation if they are not going to take any notice of it.

My Lords, I emphasise that a lot of attention was paid to that consultation, as to all consultations. The issue that the department had to deal with was whether there was a better suggestion for drawing a line and, in practice, we could not find one within the consultation responses. I remind noble Lords that, as a result of activity in this Chamber, we toughened up the definition with,

“reliably, safely, repeatedly and in a timely manner”,

locked into how it operates.

My Lords, nearly 30% of those who get enhanced mobility payments turn them into a Motability car, so approximately 100,000 to 120,000 people stand to lose their car. We know that when they go to appeal, 60% win their appeal but in the process, given the time it takes, they will have lost their car before having the additional expense of starting all over again. Will the Minister therefore ensure that anyone going to appeal does not lose their car until the appeal has been heard?

My Lords, that is not the process which we are going through. It is difficult to draw a line between people with enhanced mobility and those on Motability. That is one of the things that we will be looking at as we do this review, which will report towards the end of next year—before large volumes of people are due to go in, so we will be able to look at this closely.

My Lords, can my noble friend indicate whether he is satisfied that every penny that is available to Motability goes to those in greatest need? Can he tell the House what the salary is of the highest paid director?

My Lords, Motability puts out a report and accounts. I was looking through the latest the other day, which was from 2012, and its highest paid director was paid something more than £800,000.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am in receipt of DLA but not of a Motability car. Regardless of whether the Government know the figures of who will be affected, this will affect a significant number of people. I travelled on a train this morning from Darlington to London. There were two spaces for wheelchairs and no accessible toilet on board. Can the Minister explain what consultation there has been with other government departments to ensure that when this huge number of people is affected, the public transport system will be able to cope?

My Lords, we have had a very thorough consultation on this. I cannot bring to mind right now the exact level of consultation with the transport department. I will need to write to the noble Baroness with that information.

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister realises just how worried disabled people are. The whole transition to PIP has been in chaos. The Atos work capability assessment is a disaster, the bedroom tax is hitting them, disabled kids have had their benefits cut, and 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding a cumulative impact assessment of the Government’s changes. Is the Minister proud of the Government’s record?

My Lords, we are handling an extraordinarily difficult economic and financial position. As noble Lords are of course aware, we have had a decline in GDP of 7.2% from its peak in 2008-09. That is more or less the same level as what happened in the 1930s. Handling that decline has been enormously difficult and one of the most interesting things about the way we have handled it generally is that, unlike every other developed country, we have spread the inevitable difficulties across the whole economy, rather than, as elsewhere, the poor being hit far worse than the rich. That has not happened in the adjustment that we have made in this country.

My Lords, pursuing the point made by the noble Baroness about the role of Atos Healthcare, in confirming the amounts of money that are involved in this process, will the Minister confirm to the House that in the past 12 months alone, £114 million has been paid to Atos Healthcare; that, over the distance, more than £700 million has been paid to it; and that he has had to call in PricewaterhouseCoopers in order to assess its role? Will he tell us what that has cost and when the National Audit Office will now report on the tendering arrangements involving Atos Healthcare that it has decided to investigate?

My Lords, that is a series of very specific questions, some of the answers to which are not yet in the public arena. I will have a look at which of those I can answer appropriately in that context.