|Add caption HM The Queen at the Motorbility launch - its all so different now, so are the lease hire vehicles...|
More than 50,000 disabled people have had specially adapted cars and other lease hire vehicles abruptly taken away as they have no option but to move over to a point scored controversial new disability benefit, according to the Motability charity that runs the scheme.
MPs and campaigners are now demanding that Mrs May makes urgent changes to the Motability programme, so vehicles are not 'snatched back' before claimants have had at least a chance to appeal against their decision.
Journalists and Broadcaster Julian Bray (who is disabled) writes: The latest figures from the Motability charity show 51,000 people have been taken off the scheme after a mandatory reassessment for personal independence payments (PIP) since it launched in 2013 - 45% of all cases.
Sadly the assessments - many not only inaccurate but some 'deliberately professionally flawed' are carried out by 'moonlighting' medical professionals, some of whom have little or no relevant experience, they might be for example an ambulance paramedic, or even a St Johns 'qualified first aider', and they have been coached by firms such as Capita to routinely use 'professional tricks' to catch out those being assessed. Physical audio recording of the assessment process is prohibited by Capita in Peterborough unless an identical duplicate copy is supplied at the time. How many claimants have access to dual recorders? It really is a scandal.
For example prior to the PIP face to face assessment at an Assessment Centre in Peterbrough, a (Capita employed) security guard may innocently offer to pour a beaker of water and hand it to the disabled person being assessed for PIP. If the offered plastic beaker is picked up or held, it ticks another box, effectively reducing the point scoring PIP process.
Capita is one such organisation said to be making many 'millions' in profit out of routinely denying disabled people access to the Motability scheme, simply by marginally adjusting the points totting up process, so many just fall say one point below the entitlement criteria, so the 'Motability' vehicle is taken away.
Often the disabled driver is initially unaware that he/she has failed to qualify, the first they will know is a 'hand back' package in the mail from Motability along with a 'virtual' offer of £2,000 (from Motability not the DWP) a sum discounted from the trade sale book price for the disabled person to purchase the used car they are currently leasing from Motability.
There is however an unadvertised important interim process before it gets to the onerous judicial Tribunal stage, a process many MPs GP's and advisors seem to be totally unaware of, and that is called Mandatory Reconsideration.
A decisionmaker within the DWP, will look again at the PIP assessment, this is known as Mandatory Reconsideration, but this really only works if the claimant has first physically seen the actual report prepared by the freelance fee earning 'moonlighting' medical professionals, and sent by firms like Capita to their client the DWP.
The claimant also has to be sufficiently 'savvy' to pick legal and factual holes in it. The ones I have seen are so far from reality, and deliberately contain wholly false and misleading medical statements such as 'mistakenly' reducing the actual daily dosage rates of medications taken ie two pills a day as opposed to eight and so on.
This still usually means if the offer price is say £6,000 then £4,000 has to be personally financed by the rejected disability claimant in addition the vehicle has to be re-licenced and insured as a private car ( rather than a Motability fleet lease hire car) and the driver who may have been with Motability for many years, is treated as a new insured, and that IS expensive.
The disabled person is currently given just eight weeks before the Motability lease hire vehicle is handed back. What is not generally known, is that if the PIP award is being challenged, it is important to obtain the actual written report Capita (or other agency) sends to their client the DWP, as it bears little or no resemblance to the later DWP document supplied to the claimant.
Over 3,000 have since rejoined the Motability lease hire scheme after the initial decision to refuse them PIP at the qualified Motability point score rate, had been overturned or readjusted, ironically the difference in monetary terms may only be a few Pounds.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims a fraction of PIP decisions are overturned, while those taken off the Motability scheme are eligible [from the charity not the DWP] for a £2,000 value of support.
But charity Muscular Dystrophy UK said 900 cars are now being taken away every week, as more people are rejected for PIP.
Conservative MP Peter Bone said: "You need it for mobility purposes and maybe you use it for work, but because you lose your PIP [mobility higher rate] award you lose the car at the same time.
"You appeal against the PIP award and ultimately the tribunal awards you back [ie a higher scored] the PIP, but you've already lost the car and maybe your job because of it."
Mr Bone said the Government should let people keep their Motability cars until they have gone through the appeal process.
"The Government could quite easily put that right and it wouldn't cost a significant amount of money at all," he added.
Labour former work and pensions minister Angela Eagle said: "What's happening in the worst cases is from being mobile and being able to get out and about in a car, that's been removed and this may mean people have had their ability to live their life at taken away, and some of them are left housebound."
The Motability scheme entitles disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair using part or all of their tested benefit. In some cases an additional front end premium is applied to some models.
Many are specially adapted for the claimant's individual needs.
Thousands of people are being denied Motability, though, as they transfer over from disability living allowance (DLA) to PIP.
The number of people eligible for Motability funding has halved during the reassessment process since PIP launched in 2013, according to Muscular Dystrophy UK.
It said 126,300 of the 254,200 people who were eligible for Motability funding under DLA, and had been reassessed for PIP are now no longer eligible. However the real figure of those denied could be much higher, as the data is fragmented.
DWP figures show that since PIP launched, more than 160,000 people have had their original rejection overturned at the interim mandatory reconsideration stage or at appeal.
Some 65% of decisions are now overturned at tribunal in the claimant's favour, according to the latest Ministry of Justice statistics.
Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: "Each of the 51,000 vehicles being taken away is a story about a disabled person's independence being compromised.
"This is having a devastating effect on quality of life.
"The fact that two-thirds of people who contest their PIP award win their case shows that the system isn't working and is in urgent need of reform."
Muscular Dystrophy UK is now calling on the DWP to reverse a fiercely contested change in the rules.
To qualify for the higher level of the mobility component of PIP, which is needed to get a Motability vehicle, a person must meet a number of criteria for example: be unable to walk unaided for 20 metres, compared with the previous distance of 50 metres under DLA. PIP Assessment Centres such as the one run by Capita in Peterborough, Cambs. (at Stuart House) is located so the claimant has to physically walk more than 20 metres just to reach their Capita first floor reception desk. So many fail even before the assessment starts!
The DWP claim there are now 70,000 more people on the Motability scheme compared with 2010.
Ministers say the Motability charity provides a support package to those who no longer qualify for the scheme, including a £2,000 lump sum, however this appears to be a misunderstanding as the £2k package is offered as a contra amount against the trade resale value of the secondhand car, not 'cash in hand'.
If an appeal is successful, PIP arrears are repaid in full to the claimant but without interest for the time lost, and they can also rejoin the Motability scheme immediately if they repay their transitional support money, or else within six months of the date they left the scheme. [This of course is a nonsense as many will have purchased the vehicle or taken a out commercial loans to pay for it.]
Private companies carrying out controversial assessments for disability benefits are set to bank millions of pounds more than was budgeted for in their contracts, new figures suggest.
Labour accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of "rewarding failure" by Atos and Capita, which appear set to be paid more than £700 million for their five-year contracts.
This compares with an original estimate of £512 million for the contracts to carry out assessments for personal independence payments (PIP).
The DWP said the assessment process for PIP is key to supporting claimants, and it has to balance effective support for the most vulnerable with getting the best value for the taxpayer.
Analysis by the Press Association shows Atos and Capita have already been paid £578 million in relation to PIP since it launched in 2013.
This includes £257 million in 2016, the highest year so far, according to the department's monthly spending data.
But the three original call-off contracts for this work totalled £512 million.
This figure was supposed to cover a five-year period, according to the original contract documents.
A DWP spokeswoman is reported to have said said: "The reality is that, since PIP was introduced in 2013, more than two million decisions have been made; of these just 7% have been appealed and 3% have been overturned. [It is very difficult to appeal the process, unless you have legal training and know how to access the actual report sent to the DWP by firms like Capita, rather than relying on the subsequent bland letter sent by the DWP with the formal PIP decision. It also requires immediate and sustained action, in writing, in challenging decisions to effect a Mandatory Reconsideration it is also vital that your own GP writes a very detailed and full letter in support of your stated medical condition, most GPs will charge a fee for this, but it is money well spent].
"But we constantly review our processes, to make sure they are working in the best way possible.
"Most people leaving the Motability scheme are eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000 to meet their needs." [This is untrue no payment or money changes hands, it is simply a book allowance against the trade secondhand value of the mobility lease car should the claimant wish to purchase it, once they are booted off the scheme]
Motability [ie not the DWP] has already provided more than £50 million in support through this transitional package.
With DWP having paid Atos and Capita an average of £19 million a month over the past two years, the companies are set to be paid in excess of £700 million by the time the contracts hit the five-year mark.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: "It is beyond belief that this Tory Government is rewarding failure.
"The PIP process is in disarray and these private companies are receiving huge payouts in a time of extreme austerity.
"It is clear that these costs are spiralling out of control.
"The Government needs to get an urgent grip on these extortionate payments to private companies, especially at a time when they are getting more and more assessments overturned in the courts."
The payouts by DWP totalled £198 million in 2015, £91 million in 2014 and £7 million in 2013, the year PIP launched.
Figures released for January and February 2017 show the companies have been paid a further £25 million this year.
Atos won two of the three original tenders - a £206.7 million contract to carry out assessments in the North and Scotland, and a £183.9 million contract for London and the South.
The other £121.6 million contract for assessments in Central England and Wales was won by Capita.
More than 160,000 people initially denied PIP have had this decision overturned since the benefit launched in 2013, according to DWP figures, while Atos and Capita have been dogged by accusations of insensitive assessments.
A DWP spokeswoman said: "We are determined to provide claimants with the support that they need, and the effective assessment of people's abilities is key to this.
"We routinely review our work to make sure that we focus our resources on the most viable options and deliver the most effective support for the most vulnerable in society, while also ensuring the best value for the taxpayer."
A separate £59 million contract for PIP assessments in Northern Ireland is devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive and is not recorded in DWP data.
The original DWP contract tender suggested the four contracts would be worth between £480 million and £680 million.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: "If Government is spending an extra £200 million on the companies carrying out PIP assessments we need to ask why.
"But we also need to ask if this is a good use of taxpayers' money at a time when over 50,000 people have had to return their Motability cars and the Government has made it more difficult for those with serious mental health conditions to qualify for PIP."
A Capita spokeswoman said: "We were selected through a rigorous procurement process by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to undertake personal independence payment assessments in line with DWP's clearly defined service specification.
"We provide these reports to the department who, alongside considering all other evidence submitted by a claimant, make a decision on whether to award a benefit, and if applicable the level of such an award.
"We are paid according to the number of quality controlled assessments we complete for DWP."
Additional sources; PA, CNS, BBC, AGENCIES
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