Joan Ryan MP has said the Government’s welfare changes affecting access to the Motability Car scheme are “not fit for purpose”, as thousands of disabled people across the country – including in Enfield North – have seen their cars taken away from them.
Speaking during a packed parliamentary debate on the issue, on Tuesday 23rd February, Ms Ryan raised the specific case of a constituent, Ms Cathy Walsh, who suffers from the disability called severe generalised dystonia. Ms Walsh has been on Disability Living Allowance for 23 years and was recently asked to reapply for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP). On Friday 18th December 2015, she was notified that her application for the advanced rate mobility component of PIP had been turned down and she would no longer be eligible for the Motability Car scheme. Ms Walsh’s car, which had been invaluable in allowing her to lead an independent life, was, therefore, taken from her at the beginning of February.
Challenging the Government on how Ms Walsh had been treated, Ms Ryan stated that the representative from ATOS Healthcare conducting the PIP assessment had, in reference to the case notes, taken “longer to write the report than it took to undertake the assessment”. In addition, Joan raised the serious concerns of Ms Walsh’s neurological consultant who had “no idea how ATOS’ assessment [that Ms Walsh could walk up to 200 metres unaided] could have been made” given “at best she can walk up to 20 metres and on a bad day significantly less.” On those terms, Ms Walsh has always had a very strong medical case to qualify for the higher-rate mobility allowance.
Ms Walsh’s “car should never have been taken from her in the first place”, Ms Ryan said. “Instead, she has had to go down the extremely stressful route of a mandatory reconsideration and an appeal to a tribunal, which has only worsened her condition.”
Given the evidence, and the other cases raised by MPs, Joan called for a thorough review of what the Government has claimed to be a “fairer assessment process.” Significantly, after the debate - and in light of the medical evidence provided by her consultant - Ms Walsh received news from the Department of Work and Pensions that she would now receive the higher rate mobility component of PIP. Ms Walsh will be eligible to re-join the Motability Scheme, but it may be weeks before she has access to a car.
Joan Ryan MP, Labour’s Member of Parliament for Enfield North, said:
“I am really pleased Cathy’s case has been looked at again, but she should never have been put in this position.
She deserves a full and frank apology from the DWP for the distress this situation has caused her over the past two months.
However, Cathy’s case is the tip of the iceberg. It is clear from the debate that thousands of people are suffering due to this ill-advised policy.
The Government must conduct a full review to ensure that others do not face the same fate as Cathy Walsh.”