Thousands of disability claimants lose cars in cuts

Spina bifida sufferer Charlotte Cureton said her car was 'everything' to her. Credit: ITV News

Figures obtained by ITV News have revealed that around 100 disability claimants are losing their car benefit every week.

According to Motability, who lease cars and powered wheelchairs to the disabled, 3,000 out of 8,000 of their customers who have so far been reassessed have lost their eligibility for the scheme and have therefore had to give up their vehicles.

And this could rise to more than 100,000.

Those affected have been left angry, isolated and confused. They feel nothing about their condition has improved – but the way they are being treated has worsened.

The charity Motability says it has seen drivers having to leave their car leasing scheme as their Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is replaced with a new benefit called Personal Independent Payment (PIP).

What is PIP?

PIP is the new non means tested benefit for people aged between 16 and 64 with long term health conditions or impairments whether physical or mental. It replaces Disability Living Allowance.

According to DWP’s latest figures, about 208,000 were claiming PIP in October 2014. More than 3 million others still claim DLA and have yet to switch but it’s hoped everyone will have done so by October 2017.

How has it come about?

It’s predicted that the proportion of people living with long term health problems or disabilities in their 50s will have increased from 43% in 2004 to 58% in 2020.

The Government said it needs to find £12 billion of savings from welfare.

Some can manage without cars but others have had their lives turned upside down.

Of the 3,000 vehicles returned to Motability only three so far were wheel chair adapted.

No one with a terminal illness has had any of their allowances reduced or withdrawn according to DWP figures up to October 2014.

But nevertheless, Disability Rights campaigners say that there is now evidence of significant collateral damage to some who really depend on their vehicles.

Student Charlotte Cureton, who is 18 and a wheel chair user because of spina bifida, told me that without her car she has no independence at all.

She is studying for her A levels and learnt to drive on a specially adapted Motability car.

Without any face-to-face contact, she heard by letter that her DLA would be stopped and that she wouldn’t be getting PIP instead.

She lost her car as a result and with it her ability to get to and from college on her own.

She says the increased walking she has to do causes her pain and makes her symptoms worse. She is heartbroken and feels her chance of a future at university has been jeopardised.

Michelle Barrow no longer qualifies for a car under the scheme. Credit: ITV News

Others, like disabled mother of three Michelle Barrow, have managed to buy a second hand replacement vehicle using a donation from the charitable arm of Motability to help cushion the blow.

She has complex medical conditions including agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, but when reassessed for PIP lost the higher rate mobility allowance – and so her car.

She has kept PIP but at a lower level so no longer qualifies for a car.

Candia McCullogh still qualifies for her car. But she has been told twice officially that she would lose her PIP payments and therefore her car.

The DWP have apologised to her for previous mistakes, but recently cut back the care package that comes alongside her enhanced Mobility allowance with PIP.

With a deteriorating spinal condition and fibromyalgia she says she needs to have her carers come to visit her every day and so she now faces an impossible dilemma. “Car or Care?”

A statement from the Department of Work and Pensions said: "Clearly we are unable to comment on anonymous cases which we have not been given the opportunity to look into.

"By the end of Oct 14, 74,000 new claimants had been awarded PIP Enhanced Rate Mobility. In addition 11,700 people previously in receipt of DLA were awarded the enhanced rate of mobility having been reassessed under PIP.

“We have worked closely with Motability to ensure that support is available to people leaving the Scheme following PIP reassessment.

"Motability have agreed that the majority of people will be eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000, which will help ensure their mobility needs continue to be met.”