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Scotland Bans Private Firms Doing Benefit Assessments

April 28, 2017

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The Move From DLA To PIP Is Causing Hardship In Salford Says Charity

April 27, 2017

Full Details Of Motability Scheme For Claimants Appealing A DLA To PIP Decision

April 26, 2017

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

 

More details of the arrangements to allow claimants to keep their Motability vehicles whilst appealing a disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payment (PIP) decision have now been published.

Last week we reported that Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Disabled People, had announced a scheme to allow DLA to PIP claimants who lose their right to a Motability vehicle to keep it whilst appealing the decision.

At that time, no details of how much of the transitional payment claimants would lose if they kept their vehicles was made public.

Payments whilst challenging a decision
The full details have now been provided by Motability, as follows.

For claimants who joined the Motability scheme before 2013 and return the car within eight weeks, £2,000 will be available. Alternatively you can choose to keep the vehicle for 26 weeks, however in this case you will receive a reduced payment of £500.

For claimants who joined the Motability scheme during 2013 and return the car within eight weeks a transitional support payment of £1,000 will be available. Alternatively you can choose to keep the vehicle for 26 weeks and receive a reduced payment of £250.

For claimants who joined the Motability scheme since 1 January 2014, when more information on PIP became available, a standard £250 Return to Dealer payment will be available if the vehicle is returned within eight weeks.

Motability say that all dates relate to the period starting from the day of the last DLA payment.

These details appear to only apply to claimants who lose their higher rate mobility on transfer from DLA to PIP. They do not apply claimants who lose their enhanced PIP mobility award when their PIP award is reviewed.

Claimants who do not return their vehicle within 8 weeks of the date of their last payment will be treated as having chosen to keep it for a further 26 weeks. They will have their transitional payment reduced accordingly.

If you receive a transitional payment and apply for a Motability vehicle again within six months, Motability say you will need to speak to them to ‘discuss your options’.

Outside of the six months Motability say they ‘do not expect’ you will need to repay anything, even if you are awarded enhanced PIP mobility and apply to join the scheme again.

How long to appeal?
One major issue is the length of time that the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process is likely to take.

With around 80% of DLA to PIP mandatory reconsiderations resulting in no change, most claimants will have to then appeal to a first-tier tribunal to try to get their award reinstated. Here their chances of success will be around 65%.

However, the DWP can take as long as they wish to make a decision on your mandatory reconsideration request, before you even get into the queue for an appeal. We don’t have any statistics on how long PIP mandatory reconsiderations take on average. But there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of claimants having to chase the DWP up repeatedly and still waiting months for a decision.

The latest statistics for appeals suggest that a social security appeal, once the process has begun, takes an average of 16 weeks to be completed.

However, the backlog in the number of appeals has increased by 43% in a year to December 2016 and is likely to continue rising as the number of DLA to PIP appeals puts an ever greater strain on the system.

There is a strong possibility that many, perhaps most, claimants will have to wait more than six months for a decision. In this case they will still lose their Motability car but will also lose up to £1,500 that they could otherwise have received from Motability.

Gamble
The new arrangements still leave claimants at a huge disadvantage.

The only fair solution would be to allow Motability users to keep their vehicles until their appeal has been heard, however long it takes. That way any delays would be at the expense of the DWP and taxpayers generally, rather than individual claimants.

Instead, claimants must either take a gamble, based on uncertainty about the length of the appeals process as well as the outcome, or they must give up a vehicle they know they should be entitled to keep. And, with it, a great deal of their independence.

What would you do?
If you found yourself in this position, what would you do?

Would you take the transitional payment or hang on to your vehicle and hope your appeal was heard – successfully – in time?

We’d particularly be interested to hear from members who have challenged a DLA to PIP decision.

Did you win and, if so, at what stage?

How long did the process take?

Please leave a comment below.

You can read more on the Motability website about keeping your vehicle whilst challenging a PIP decision.

You can also read Frequently Asked Questions about the transitional support package on the Motability website.

Andrew Can’t Have Heart Transplant Because Of Brain Tumours

April 25, 2017

Now he faces a PIP review a year early. DWP madness.

How Airlines Still Discriminate Against Disabled Travellers

April 24, 2017

Jenny Gumbrell has been housebound and unable to work since returning from a trip to New Zealand in mid-February. When her flight arrived at Gatwick she discovered that her portable mobility scooter was in pieces, having been apparently dropped from a height. It was declared beyond economic repair and, since then, the multiple sclerosis sufferer from Winchester has fought in vain to persuade Emirates Airlines to pay for a replacement.

“I can’t leave the house unless I pay for a taxi,” says Gumbrell, who had to be pushed by airport staff in a borrowed wheelchair to her taxi. “The scooter gives me a sense of independence, despite the difficulties caused by my condition.”

Gumbrell’s plight highlights the inadequacy of aviation law when it concerns travellers with disabilities. Airlines are only obliged to pay passengers a maximum of around £1,200 when their luggage is lost or damaged. The threshold was set in 1999 by the Montreal Convention which harmonises compensation rules for international flights.

Campaigners claim that it discriminates against some passengers because it fails to distinguish between the loss of a suitcase of clothes and a wheelchair that is someone’s lifeline.

In Gumbrell’s case, the £1,094 eventually offered by Emirates covered less than half the £2,200 cost of a new scooter and it included £105 she was obliged to pay to courier the damaged vehicle to the manufacturer when Emirates insisted it be professionally assessed. Moreover, it required four weeks of chasing before the airline made the offer.

Emirates finally agreed to fund the full cost of a new scooter after Gumbrell contacted The Observer. “We apologise for any inconvenience caused as a result of this,” says a spokesperson.

“The comfort and wellbeing of all of our customers is of paramount importance, in particular customers with reduced mobility.”

Actor and entrepreneur Athena Stevens waited a year for compensation after her £25,000 motorised wheelchair was irreparably damaged during a British Airways flight from London City airport to Glasgow in 2015. The airline only paid up last November, six months after she began legal proceedings.

She estimates the saga cost her £70,000 in taxi fares, wheelchair hire, extra carers and business lost through her immobility, but the payout only covered the cost of the chair and legal expenses.

“It completely closed my life down,” says 32-year-old Stevens who has cerebral palsy. BA told The Guardian that over the 12 months it had continued to seek a solution with Stevens and her lawyers “more than 426,000 people with reduced mobility travelled with us and we take their needs extremely seriously”.

In 2006 the European Commission introduced regulations which require airports to provide temporary alternatives if mobility aids are lost or damaged.

However, passengers still complain of discrimination. Daniel Scott (not his real name) says he was left to fend for himself after he found the brakes of his wheelchair damaged following a Ryanair flight from Slovakia to London Stansted.

“No one was in the slightest bit bothered with just how serious this was, and all I was given was a damage form to fill out at lost luggage,” says the 47-year-old who is unable to walk after a spinal cord injury. He was housebound for a week while he awaited spare parts to arrive from the manufacturer. He says the repair cost him £200, but the chair, badly twisted in transit, would no longer run reliably and he was obliged to replace it at a cost of £4,800 six months later.

An eight-month battle won him £100 in “goodwill” from Stansted. “I’ve lost my trust in flying,” he says. “As a disabled traveller you’re really made to feel you’re an inconvenience.”

Ryanair says that while it “regrets any inconvenience, wheelchair services at London Stansted in 2012 were operated by ISS on behalf of the airport authority – at great expense to the airlines – and London Stansted was responsible for this service and any problems with it.”

Campaigner Roberto Castiglioni set up the advice website Reduced Mobility Rights after attempting to fly with his severely disabled son. “Access to air travel is not something people with special needs can take for granted because of the obstacles they meet getting onto a plane,” he says.

He advises travellers with mobility equipment worth over £1,200 to make a “special declaration of interest” when they book their flight. This is akin to an insurance policy covering the transport of goods worth more than the cap set by the Montreal Convention. It is illegal for airlines to deny this, but most airlines charge a fee, and it is only available on request and on a case-by-case basis.

In the US, anti-discrimination laws oblige airlines to pay the full cost of mobility equipment damaged on domestic flights. The European Commission is considering introducing similar rules, but currently it merely “encourages” airlines to voluntarily pay more than they are legally obliged to. Only two airlines, Lufthansa and Air Canada, have, so far, pledged to do so.

 

Paralympian Chris Holmes, former disability commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, urges UK airlines to follow suit. “This unfair policy is trapping disabled people in a cycle of disadvantage,” he says. “British air carriers have the moral responsibility to stop applying it to mobility equipment, as it’s clearly unfit for purpose.”

“The likelihood of a mobility aid being damaged is very low,” says the UK aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority. “However, the CAA recognises that the compensation available under the Montreal Convention will not always be enough to cover the cost of repair or replacement of mobility aids entirely.

“Given this, we are gathering information on the frequency with which mobility aids are damaged and the contingencies airlines and airports have to look after disabled passengers when incidents occur. We then intend to examine the potential options available to wheelchair users to receive better protection.”

It is not just the wheelchair that is damaged when mishandled in transit. Gumbrell had to be signed off work with stress as she struggled to adapt to life without her lifeline.

However, the Montreal Convention makes no provision for psychological damage in its compensation requirements – only for physical harm.

This is a “grave injustice”, according to a supreme court judge who was prevented from awarding a person with cerebral palsy compensation for degrading treatment on board a Thomas Cook flight. The passenger had asked to be seated beside his wife so she could attend to his special needs. But they were allocated seats a row apart so that she had to crouch in the aisle to deal with his catheter and help with food. The supreme court ruled that there had been a breach of EC disability regulations but the passenger could not be compensated for his humiliation because of the constraints of the Montreal Convention.

The more airlines try to cut corners the more likely they are to regard passengers with a disability as a costly burden, and campaigners say that attitudes, as well as laws, need to change.

WHAT THE RULES SAY

Under EU law airports and airlines are jointly responsible for assisting disabled passengers to and from the aircraft and during a flight, provided they give 48 hours’ notice of their requirements. This includes providing an alternative wheelchair if the passenger’s chair is lost or damaged in transit.

Bizarrely, although airlines have to pay airports for that assistance, they are legally obliged to step in if the airport fails to provide the service. EC Regulation EC1107/2006, which enshrines the rights of disabled travellers, applies to all EU flights and aircraft.

In 2014 the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014 gave the UK regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, legal powers to ensure airlines or airports comply with European regulations. However, disabled passengers still complain of discrimination.

In October a terminally ill woman was left stranded in the hydraulic lift that was to winch her onto a Ryanair flight which took off without her, and in 2011 a person with multiple sclerosis successfully sued the same airline after the lift failed to arrive and she had to be hauled up the aircraft steps over her husband’s shoulder.

Meet Steph, The Blind Cheerleader

April 24, 2017

Steph is an international cheerleader. She’s also blind.

She is part of the England ParaCheer team, where physically disabled and non-disabled athletes compete side-by-side.

The 2017 World Cheerleading Championships in Florida will be the first ever to feature ParaCheer teams. They’ll be scored on how successfully disabled athletes are integrated into routines.

We followed her during the team’s final performance before setting off for the United States.

Powerful Story Explaining How Cuts Affect MH Claimants

April 24, 2017

“A couple of weeks ago my diary said that two women helped me get back on a train…. Apparently I was lost, about 18 miles away from home.”

For Shannon O’Neill, leaving the house is an unpredictable and potentially dangerous ordeal. Her multiple mental health conditions mean that she frequently ‘disassociates’, becoming severely confused and disorientated.

“I’ll have little absences, little switches, through to bigger moments where… I completely just shut down and am not able to move,” she told The Independent.

In February, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) adjusted the criteria for disability benefits, in a move critics say is discriminatory against people with mental health conditions, compared to those with physical problems. 

Shannon is one of thousands of people who have been affected by the changes.

She was reassessed as part of the nationwide transition from Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP)  scheme. The assessor deemed Shannon capable of ‘planning and following routes unaided,’ and she was stripped of the mobility component of her benefit.

“My first thought was: They’ve misunderstood how my condition affects my mobility,” said Shannon.

She immediately applied for mandatory re-consideration and began keeping a travel diary, as well as starting the process of putting together a further 12 pieces of evidence she would present for her appeal.

Two tribunals advised the DWP to expand the reach of PIP to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, to become more inclusive of those with psychological problems. 

The government blocked the court ruling, denying an estimated 160,000 disabled people access to the full support they need- an effective cut worth £3.7bn. 

The decision has been criticised by the government’s own welfare experts, who say the changes should be delayed until they have been properly tested and “clearly understood”. 

Shannon’s mandatory re-consideration appeal was rejected. Struggling with a 10% decrease in her benefit allocation, she has been forced to confront the reality that she might not be able to cover the costs of transport if she leaves the house and loses her way.

“Now, I don’t have emergency taxi money without getting overdrawn,” she said. “I have had to start making decisions about what I can and can’t go out to do.”

Disability charity Scope has called the changes “concerning” and warned it could mean disabled claimants lose their independence.

“Disabled people spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their impairment or condition,” Scope’s head of policy and public affairs, James Taylor said.

Shannon has decided to take her case to tribunal in a bid to regain the mobility component of her PIP.

If the ruling doesn’t go in her favour, she could be in danger of losing more of her disability benefit.

“For me it’s worth the risk because I can see that there is a greater issue here,” she said.

“I think the more of us that put our case across to try and explain to the government, and explain to the courts that our mental health can affect our mobility, the better.”