A small win for maintaining independence

Z2K Caseworker Andy McCarthy highlights the vital importance of mobility support for people with disabilities

Sarah has osteoarthritis which makes it impossible for her to walk more than 50 meters without stopping, and also has severe anxiety. She has fallen over while walking in the community many times, which has understandably made her cautious going out by herself. Apart from taking a bus for 2 stops down the road to see a friend, she would never leave the house without someone helping her. This in turn made Sarah feel extremely isolated and depressed, as she lost contact with her support network and was stuck indoors for the majority of the time.

After applying for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Sarah was awarded enhanced mobility rate, and so was entitled to a Mobility Car through the Motability Scheme. The scheme enables disabled people to get mobile by exchanging their enhanced rate mobility allowance to lease a car. This was an “absolute God-send” for Sarah, as it gave her a new independence; her son was able to drive her to go shopping, to GP appointments, and to visit friends and family who she lost contact with since her mobility worsened.

However with DLA being phased out and gradually being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Sarah was reassessed with troubling results. Her Daily Living component was reduced to the standard rate, while she lost her mobility rate entitlement altogether. This meant that the car she relied on for essential travel was to be taken away as she no longer qualified for the Motability scheme.

Sadly, Sarah’s experience of transferring over to PIP is extremely common. A recent Freedom of Information Request by Disability Rights UK1 revealed that 50% of DLA recipients who were receiving enhanced rate mobility lost this entitlement when reassessed for PIP. The irony of calling a disability benefit ‘Personal Independence Payment’ while simultaneously taking away people’s means to remaining independent is astounding.

With help from Z2K Sarah was able to lodge an appeal for her PIP entitlement. She was extremely worried about attending, especially as her Mobility car was due to be taken away 2 days later. Fortunately, Sarah was awarded higher rates for both Daily Living and Mobility components. She was able to keep her mobility car and the independence it allowed her.

But the fact remains that thousands of disabled people have had their enhanced mobility component downgraded or removed upon reassessment for PIP (130,400 people as of 2016)1, which has had untold impact for these people’s ability to manage.

 

 

1 https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2017/july/half-dla-claimants-lose-their-higher-mobility-rate-support-moving-pip

‘Close to Home’ – the real story of life on benefits

Last night, I attended Close to Home, a reading put on by the theatre company Ice and Fire. It was in a beautiful, albeit rather gloomy venue called the Union Chapel, in Islington and was extremely well attended.

Ice and Fire had interviewed various different people living on benefits, and their verbatim testimony had been woven into a script which was performed by some wonderful actors.

The stories included heartbreaking comments from a severely ill 30 year old woman. She was routinely hospitalised because of cystic fibrosis yet had a well-founded fear of losing her Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which pays for the car that provides her with her only method of getting out of the house. She spoke very poignantly about the fear and humiliation induced by the government’s express intention of cutting DLA by 20%  which is based on the assumption that 20% of DLA payments currently being made are undeserved.

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