Due to changes in eligibility criteria for certain disability benefits, some disabled people have been notified that they are no longer able to lease a vehicle from Motability. Last week, a new extension package was announced by Motability to make the transition a little easier to deal with.
Able spoke with Director of Motability, Declan O’Mahony, to find out more.
Just to clarify the context of the extension package, why are Motability vehicles being taken away from people previously assessed as needing one, in the first place?
Motability is not involved in deciding who gets DLA and PIP but as everybody knows the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are in the process of moving disabled people of working age from DLA over to PIP (benefits); the eligibility criteria for PIP are generally different. Inevitably, there are some people who will get a different level of support under PIP than they would have received under DLA as they move from one to the other. If you had the higher rate mobility component of DLA and you don’t receive the enhanced rate of mobility component for PIP, then you’re no longer eligible to use the scheme and your lease has to come to an end and you have to hand the car back. So it’s driven by the reassessment which is part of the Government’s welfare reform programme.
How was the transition, and now, extension package, calculated?
Back in 2013 when new claimants started to be assessed for PIP it became clear to us that there would be a number of people who were going to find that under the new eligibility criteria for PIP that they were no longer eligible to use the Scheme. As a charity we put in place what is known as the transitional support programme. Many people get into the cycle of saving for a new car for a couple of years and for budgeting for insurance and everything else. These people had never been in that cycle and we wanted to help them through that transition. We couldn’t provide them with the benefits of the Scheme going forward but what we did want to do as a charity was put a safety net under them and help them through that difficult transition.
The headline details of that are the transitional support payment of, in most cases, £2,000 with some extended time with the car, which has been modified in the last couple of days and equally importantly, lots of information, support and advice that we give people on insurance and where to buy a used car from etc.
Our feedback from people we asked who’d left the Scheme under those circumstances was very positive regarding the help received and was much appreciated at a difficult time. But, one of the pieces of feedback we got was that in addition to the couple of weeks you got from DWP where you’re notified by them that you’ve lost the allowance and that your payments will end in about three weeks – and that an in addition we were giving people a further three weeks – you probably had about six weeks to sort out alternative mobility. Some of the feedback on the research was that actually expecting people to go and find a used car, possibly with adaptations and finance it and insure it within that period, was pushing it. That was the driver behind what we’ve done in the last couple of days.
We’ve recruited an extra 50 staff just to take telephone calls. The reason for that is because they’re stressed and going through a difficult transition. That’s when customers need the support to pick up the phone and ask questions and to make sure they understand the information. We made sure that we didn’t short change them on that.
It’s a difficult transition for people and as you would expect a charity to do, we try to support people through that difficult time. By making the changes we have most recently, we’re responding to feedback from customers who’ve gone through the transition. The other feature of what we’ve done in the last few days is obviously, if you choose to take the longer period: the 26 weeks, albeit you may receive a lower transition support payment at the end of it than you could have done; if you do choose to appeal the DWP decision, that does create the option, if you want to use it, of holding on to your car during the appeal process. We’re giving people that choice so that they can decide what’s right for their circumstances. I think, in a way, what we’ve done in the last few days is a significant change even though it’s really just tweaking the package that we put in place during 2013.
Enhance Transitional Support Package
Motability Operations will be implementing the enhanced transitional support package as outlined below, with immediate effect. Once they are notified by DWP that a customer no longer has higher rate mobility allowance following a DLA to PIP reassessment, they will write to customers outlining the support available depending on when they joined the Scheme:
Customer first joined Scheme before end of 2012
Returns car within 8 weeks of DLA payments ending. Motability provides transitional support payment of £2,000.
Returns car within 26 weeks of DLA payments ending. Motability provides transitional support payment of £500.
Customer first joined Scheme during 2013
Returns car within 8 weeks of DLA payments ending. Motability provides transitional support payment of £1,000.
Returns car within 26 weeks of DLA payments ending. Motability provides transitional support payment of £250.
Customer first joined Scheme after 2013
Returns car within 8 weeks of DLA payments ending.