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House of Lords Hansard
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Disabled People: Independent Living
30 March 2017
Volume 782

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support independent living for disabled people of working age.

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My Lords, the Government believe that individuals should have the opportunity to work and realise the benefit of stable employment where they can, enabling them to live independently and fulfil their potential. We are therefore working to join up the health system, the welfare system and society more widely so that we focus on the strengths of people with disabilities or health conditions and what they can do.

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I very much welcome that reply. The most important thing is that the infrastructure—such as enough care support and accessible transport—is got right around the country. Disabled people must have enough support. I wonder whether the Minister’s department will now agree to conduct a cumulative impact assessment on current government policies, which shows their effect on disabled people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has offered its support and this should be taken up.

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My Lords, I am unsure that I should necessarily want to do it in the manner suggested by the noble Baroness, but I assure her that we shall continue to examine the effectiveness of all our policies and of all the benefits that we administer on behalf of the Government. Only today, the second of two reviews conducted by Paul Gray into PIP has been published. We promised these statutory reviews as a result of legislation passed some years ago. The Government will respond to the second review in due course.

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My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Spinal Injuries Association. Is the Minister aware that we have many young people of working age who have broken their backs and necks and are paralysed and who need help to get in and out of bed and into their cars? They need expensive personal care so that they can get to work. If they do not get this, they cannot work.

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My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to draw attention to the problems of people with spinal injuries. The same is true for people with any of a host of other conditions, be they mental or physical. That is why we offer the help that we can and why we are committed to trying to reduce the employment gap between those who are disabled and those who are not by seeking greater working opportunities for those with health problems.

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My Lords, the Motability scheme is a crucial element for getting people back into work, yet about 50,000 people have lost out on it. What is particularly worrying is that the vast majority of appeals are upheld, by which time those concerned have lost the vehicle and then have to get it again. It is costing a lot of time and money. Would Her Majesty’s Government consider having a scheme whereby people do not lose the vehicle until the end of the appeal process? This would make much more sense where the appeal is upheld.

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My Lords, I understand the problems to which the right reverend Prelate refers. The department is looking at these matters. My honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work is well aware of them. As the right reverend Prelate will know, schemes are available for one-off cash payments to help those who are losing their cars. We shall certainly look at speeding up the whole appeals process to make sure that the problems to which the right reverend Prelate referred do not get any worse.

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My Lords, to pursue this a little further, I appreciate that the Minister may be thinking about this but the point made by the right reverend Prelate is that people cannot wait. Between October and December last year, 800 people a week were having to hand back their Motability cars because they did not have the money to pay for them any more as a result of PIP reassessment. The Motability website says clearly that you get only six weeks from that decision to hand back your car. Frankly, the DWP is a long way off speeding up assessment to the point where appeals are concluded within six weeks. Will the Minister please look at this a little more urgently?

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My Lords, this matter has been treated with considerable urgency. As I made clear, transitional schemes are in place. The package has already helped many claimants to meet their mobility needs by buying a used car. That is why I referred to that. I am more than happy to have further discussions on that but, as I said, my honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work is fully aware of these problems and is engaged with discussion both with Motability and with others.