The Court of Appeal has heard a legal challenge to disability benefit changes restricting award of the highest Personal Independence Payment (PIP) mobility component to those who can walk only up to 20 meters.
PIP is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Britain’s disabled people, as part of widespread reforms to the welfare system.
Under DLA, disabled people could receive the higher mobility award if they could only walk up to 50 metres. A toughening of the eligibility criteria for PIP has seen this lowered to just 20 metres, resulting in many disabled people receiving a lower disability benefit award.
The Court of Appeal heard has an appeal against a High Court ruling last year, which rejected a legal challenge to the introduction of new 20 metre eligibility criteria.
The latest appeal has been brought by Mr Steven Sumpter, represented by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who can only walk a few metres with a stick before becoming dependent on the use of a wheelchair.
Mr Sumpter is eligible for the higher mobility component under DLA, but fears he may lose his Motability car and eligibility for disability benefit when assessed for PIP.
“Without access to support, I would be unable to do a huge number of activities that many people take for granted”, he said.
“I would lose my Motability vehicle and would struggle to access local amenities including supermarkets.
“The government policy on eligibility would leave me completely in the lurch and massively affect my quality of life.“
Government figures predict that up to 500,000 disabled people will lose their entitlement to the higher mobility rate when assessed for PIP.
Alastair Wallace, a specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Our client originally challenged the consultation during the creation of the PIP system and while this led to a further review, we still believe that the current proposals are unfair.
“Mobility issues have a massive impact on the lives of those affected, often meaning they lose a significant level of independence and – without support – can be left isolated from their loved ones and the local community.
“A reduction in the eligibility may mean that hundreds of thousands of people who would have been able to access support would now be frozen out.
“Our client is not alone in this either and it is time that disabled people who have been touched by this have their voices heard on the issue.”
Disability Rights UK say they have provided a witness statement to the Court of Appeal, expressing concerns about the ‘loss of independence brought about by the changes’.
Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “PIP could see thousands of disabled people become institutionalised in their own homes.
“The DWP expects that 600,000 disabled people who currently get the higher rate mobility component will lose it altogether or receive the lower amount. This means that many will lose their car under the Motability car scheme so they will no longer be able to get to work or get out and about.
“We believe the test of policy changes relating to disability should be whether they help or hinder independence and participation in society. This change does not meet this test.
“Despite receiving over 1,100 responses to the 2013 consultation opposing the new PIP mobility test the Government pressed ahead.”
The Court of Appeal is expected to deliver its ruling at a later date.