Following the recent rushed consultation on personal independence payment (PIP) mobility component, the DWP has today confirmed that it is not prepared to make any changes to the 20 metre limit for eligibility for enhanced rate mobility. The news will come as a bitter blow to the many thousands of disabled claimants likely to lose their higher rate mobility component payments or Motability vehicle as a result.
The government was forced to run a consultation on PIP mobility after disabled claimants began court action to challenge the sudden and unannounced change in the eligibility criteria, following the initial consultation on PIP.
The second consultation ran from 24 June to 5 August and received 1,142 responses. It appears that these responses were almost universally hostile to the reduction in the qualifying distance. According to the DWP response to the consultation document:
• Respondents felt that there was no evidence to support the use of 20 metres as the distance for determining entitlement to the enhanced rate of the mobility component. Many respondents felt that there was little evidence to show that an individual who could walk a little over 20 metres would face lower costs than an individual who could walk less than 20 metres. Respondents pointed out that other Government policies use 50 metres as a measure for mobility.
• Respondents were concerned that the current 20 metres distance used in the criteria would have negative consequences for individuals. Many respondents were concerned about the impact on people moving from the higher rate of DLA to the standard rate of PIP who would lose access to a Motability scheme car. They felt this could increase isolation and reduce independence, have significant financial impact, and cause deterioration in their physical and mental health.
• Respondents felt the criteria would increase individuals’ need for support from other public services and that this would have an increased cost for the Government.
• Respondents welcomed the inclusion in Regulations of the reliability criteria, which are used to measure a person’s ability to complete an activity safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and within reasonable time period. However, they wanted to ensure that these were delivered appropriately and consistently in the PIP assessment.
In spite of this, the DWP have decided that:
"Whilst the 50 metre distance is used to measure mobility in other Government policies, it does not mean that it is the right distance for use in determining entitlement to the enhanced rate of the Mobility component. Government is entitled to use different criteria for different purposes and it is important that decisions on PIP criteria are based on an objective consideration of the policy intent for the benefit.
"We recognise that people who are unable to reliably walk more than 50 metres have restricted mobility and independence, to a level that makes it reasonable to offer some support from the Government. This is achieved through the assessment criteria as set out in Regulations which award the standard rate to those who cannot reliably walk between 20 and 50 metres."
"Having considered all these factors, the Government believes that the use of 20 metres is the best way of identifying those whose physical mobility is most limited. We think it is justified to focus support in this way given the policy intent to target support on those with the greatest need and create a more financially sustainable benefit."
Like every other benefits consultation before it, the PIP mobility consultation has proved to be a sham exercise which ultimately took absolutely no account of the views of those who took part in it. Whether this pointless exercise will be sufficient to head off legal action already begun by claimants, and paused to allow this exercise to take place, remains to be seen.
But there can be no doubt now that when current DLA claimants with time-limited awards begin to be assessed for PIP at the end of this month, they will be facing a far harsher assessment of their mobility needs than in the past.