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Volume 769: debated on Monday 7 March 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will reassess as a matter of urgency the Personal Independence Payment assessment which has led to many working-age disabled people losing their existing entitlement to a Motability car.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare an interest in that I have a Motability car myself.

My Lords, there are now more people on the Motability scheme than before the personal independence payment was introduced and there is £175 million of transitional support for those who lose entitlement. Personal independence payment maintains the key principles of disability living allowance while better targeting support at those with the greatest needs. The Government are committed to its safe, secure rollout and have no plans to reassess it.

Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, does she not agree that it is one thing for a working-age person not to receive enough points at the first assessment to be entitled to a Motability car but quite another to have your existing Motability vehicle snatched away, not because you have got better but because the test has been made impossibly harsh? Does that not run counter to the Government’s aim to halve the number of disabled people who are out of work?

The Government are absolutely committed to supporting disabled people but the disability living allowance was inconsistent and subjective whereas the personal independence payment assessment is more consistent and fairer.

My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the individuals chosen to assess the nature and significance of the disability of disabled individuals are properly qualified and trained to carry out such assessments, and that in doing so they employ well-defined and reproducible criteria?

My Lords, the Government are satisfied that those who carry out the personal independence payment assessments are qualified to do so—and indeed, reports suggest that the assessments are running better than the previous DLA regime.

My Lords, considering the numbers of PIP recipients who win on appeal, does the Minister agree that it would be much fairer to leave the Motability car with the person while they wait for the appeal decision to come through, especially if the car has had an expensive adaptation?

My Lords, the time taken for appeals is being reduced. Certainly the first step is mandatory reconsideration, which in general takes place before the Motability car needs to be returned, as there is a seven-week period. However, the long-standing policy of the department is that if it is assessed that somebody is no longer entitled to a car, it must be removed pending appeal.

My Lords, the Minister thinks that the system is working better. One must ask: for whom? The BBC reported in February that 14,000 disabled people had had their Motability cars taken away from them, which is 45% of the 31,000 who had had an assessment. If that scales up, we will see hundreds of thousands of disabled people not having access in future to a Motability car. So I ask the Minister again the question put to her by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester: how does this contribute to the Government’s aim to halve the disability employment gap?

The Government are absolutely committed to halving the disability employment gap and we understand that being reassessed for any benefit can be a challenging time. That is why, after discussions with my department, Motability announced a £175 million package of transitional support. Those who lose their cars can get £2,000 for a new one or can buy their old car, and are given time to adjust. But the idea of the reassessment is that the DLA was inconsistent—many people had lifetime awards—whereas PIP offers a more consistent and fairer approach.

My Lords, should not the mileage on the clock of one of these vehicles determine how long the vehicle is held for, as against the age of the vehicle?

The current rules we use for assessment allow people to buy their used Motability car if they so wish—but the rules of the scheme have been carefully set and assessed.

My Lords, are the Government confident that the four reliability criteria are being clearly explained to claimants by all health professionals in view of the high success rate of PIP appeals?

The success rate of the appeals in PIP has much more to do with the fact that the appeal case hears far more evidence and the person who appeals has had time to put forward their arguments. The appeal would normally hear new and different evidence from that which has been placed before the assessor in the past.

My Lords, does the Department for Work and Pensions monitor the accuracy of assessments by Maximus and Capita? What action is being taken against assessors who make inaccurate assessments? Perhaps this could be an opportunity where disabled people could be employed.

A very small number of the cases actually go to appeal. At this moment we are confident that the processes in place are doing the work that they need to do.

My Lords, I estimate that perhaps 200,000 people who currently have Motability cars will lose them as a result of the PIP activity. Very many of them will appeal, and they will win. Given that the Minister has accepted, admitted and shared with the House that the appeals procedure is infinitely more reliable than the original PIP decision by virtue of the additional information that it has, can I ask her to reflect on the previous answer that she gave so that people can keep their cars until their appeal has been completed?

The current level of appeals is extremely low and we do not wish to give people any incentive to appeal. I also point out to noble Lords that more people are getting Motability cars now than before PIP was introduced.