Lucy Isaac, Tribunals Coordinator
In 2013, the Government began to rollout PIP for adults to replace DLA. One of the purposes of PIP was to reduce Government spending, with the intention of costing 20% less. Therefore, the conditions to satisfy in order to be entitled to the benefit were made stricter. Where DLA looked at your ability to walk OR the impact walking has on your mental health conditions, PIP looks at both together. It is possible to get the enhanced rate of PIP mobility without mental health issues, but the threshold is extremely high. Indeed, 52% of UK claimants who were claiming a mobility element under DLA found that it was either reduced or stopped altogether when they moved to PIP. This restriction has had a particular effect on those who were part of the Motability scheme, which provides disability adapted cars in exchange for the benefit money. And while there are new plans to give people £1000 who lose their motability cars, this is not a solution; those who rely on the mobility scheme as their only mode of transport will not be able to afford to buy a car that is adapted to the individual’s needs.
Annabelle* had been on DLA since she was a child, as she was born with a condition which caused chronic pain and severe mobility issues, and was eligible for the Motability scheme. Annabelle had multiple surgeries on her legs and hips and can only mobilise with the assistance of a crutch. Walking any distance is painful, and in order to get by in day to day life, she is regularly pushing past the point of being in extreme pain, however she does not suffer with any mental health issues. Annabelle relies on the scheme as she is unable to drive an unadapted car, walk to a bus stop or afford regular taxi travel. As the threshold of moving around is so high and difficult to prove in the DWP health assessments, Annabelle lost her higher rate mobility when she was assessed for PIP, and subsequently her car.
Many people like Annabelle will go on to appeal this decision, many being overturned by the First Tier Tribunal. When in front of the Judge and Doctor, Annabelle and her medical evidence were looked at with care, and the realistic ability to mobilise around safely were considered. Annabelle was given the higher rate. A happy ending, but one that has left Annabelle feeling less empowered and more anxious about her future, and has seen her with nearly 5 months without the use of her car whilst she waited for the appeal to take place. Annabelle knows she will be reassessed for PIP in three years’ time, and is likely to face the same problem again.
With the damage done to Annabelle’s health and wellbeing after being put through this appeal, the DWP will justify as it cuts the overall cost of welfare benefits. People like Annabelle with lifelong conditions should be able to live with dignity, respect and the ability to maintain their independence without facing the extra financial burden.
* To protect the identity of our clients, a false name has been used.
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