Holly Edwards Solicitor at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors shares this blog with us. It has been written by her trainee Kelly.
Until 2013, individuals who required financial assistance with the extra costs of suffering long-term ill health, or a disability, could apply for Disability Living Allowance (DLA). However, in 2013, the government launched a new scheme, called Personal Independence Payment (PIP), to replace DLA for those aged between 16 and 64. Payments can be made, subject to certain circumstances, to assist with every day living, or mobility, or both.
There are two categories, under both schemes, which successful applicants will fall into – either the standard or enhanced rate, under PIP, or the lower or higher rate under DLA. Despite the name change, the rates between DLA and PIP have remained the same, though there have been significant changes to the eligibility criteria.
One dramatic result of this is that over 50,000 people have lost their specially adapted vehicles, taking away their independence and ability to work. Lower-limb amputees have been particularly affected by the change in criteria.
The Motability Scheme
Those who receive payments for assistance with mobility may spend their allowance however they please, to best suit their needs. This may be on taxis, for those who generally go short distances, or on a specially-adapted vehicle through the Motability Scheme, for those who tend to travel further.
By exchanging their mobility allowance, disabled people are able to lease a powered wheelchair, scooter or car for three years. The scheme is essential to many, however it is only available to those in receipt of the higher, or enhanced rate, mobility payments of the respective schemes. If you do not qualify for these, you are not eligible for Motability.
Individuals are assessed for mobility payments based on their ability to stand and move. The PIP Assessment Guide advises that ‘standing’ means:
- To stand upright;
- With at least one biological foot on the ground;
- With or without suitable aids and appliances.
It is worth noting that crutches, walking sticks and even prosthesis are considered aids and appliances.
Under DLA, anyone who was unable to move further than 50m was awarded the higher rate. However, under PIP, only individuals who can stand and move less than 20m will be able to claim the enhanced rate.
This means that someone who requires a wheelchair when they are out, but can just about manage to get around their home (and to the car) with aids, is unlikely to qualify for the higher rate. No enhanced rate, means no Motability Scheme. Previously, however, an individual in this situation would have been eligible for the higher rate and would therefore have qualified for the Motability Scheme.
What’s more, the criteria has been further tightened under PIP with the additional requirement that an applicant’s health condition, or impairment, must be expected to last for a minimum of nine months from the date of assessment, and have been present for at least three months prior to it.
The Effect on Lower Limb Amputees
Imagine the situation whereby your life is perfectly ordinary and you are lucky enough not to suffer any disabilities or serious health issues. Unfortunately, one day, you are in a car accident and your left foot is amputated.
How will you get around? You probably won’t be allowed to use crutches, in the early days, and it’ll take time before your leg has healed enough to have a prosthetic limb fitted. You will, undoubtedly, require a wheelchair. But then, how do you get to work, do the shopping or the school run, visit family and friends, or even just leave the house?
Initially, you will be unable to move further than 50m. Under the old system, you would therefore have been eligible for the higher rate mobility payments and subsequently qualified for the Motability Scheme. You would have been able to lease a vehicle, specially-adapted for your needs, which would have assisted significantly in offering you independence whilst you recovered.
Under PIP, however, it is unlikely that you will qualify for any assistance. Firstly, you may find yourself just about able to move 20m but, even if you can’t, what about those time restrictions? Rewind to three months prior to the accident… You had no disability. Fast-forward nine months from now… Hopefully you’ll be getting to grips with your prosthetic limb, or at least moving further than 20m on crutches. You therefore don’t qualify, under PIP, for either rate, and you can not be part of the Motability Scheme.
No Motability Scheme means no specially-adapted transport. No specially-adapted transport means you are unable to go out and you lose your independence.
Independence is absolutely vital for anyone who has suffered a lower limb amputation. Their disability will mean they already have to learn and adapt to new ways of living. Removing their entitlement to a vehicle, during their recovery, and preventing them from getting around (be it to see their friends and family, or to go to work) adds, both physically and mentally, to their struggle.
You may have seen the media calling for reforms to disability benefits, to prevent individuals taking advantage of the system and claiming money they aren’t entitled to, or do not need. The 2013 reforms have only served to cause significant and unnecessary problems for those who are already dealing with life-changing injuries, such as the loss of a lower limb. Are these people not deserving of assistance to aid their recovery and allow them to lead as independent a life as possible?
SDN thanks Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors for sending us this blog. To find out more about the work of Lanyon Bowdler click here: https://www.lblaw.co.uk/