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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Motability faces financial allegations but stands strong against its critics

Shock, horror. Motabilty Operations, part of the Motability charity, is facing allegations about its finances.

The UK organisation provides cars for disabled people who receive the highest level of benefit for mobility. It is accused of having enormous cash reserves and is said to pay its chief executive an outrageous six figure salary.

Extraordinary, we must investigate, say ministers and other MPs. BUT, hold on, what are the FACTS? What is the TRUTH?

The Daily Mail first revealed the allegations in a report published this week. In the Mail Online, the story was headlined “Revealed: Boss of car scheme for the disabled is on £1.7million… and YOU pay: MPs question Motability’s lavish salaries and its £2.4billion cash stockpile”.

Today, it returned to the story, quoting the Press Association saying:

A disability charity faces a double investigation after MPs raised concerns over the “grotesque” state of its finances.

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said she has asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to consider probing Motability amid reports it has a £2.4 billion surplus and pays its chief executive £1.7 million a year.

Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, also confirmed his panel would be launching its own “urgent inquiry”.

Allegations rebuffed

I am sure you will agree, if the allegations turn out to be true, it would be disgusting. Profiteering on the backs of the disabled. However, there are two sides to every story and Motability has hit back.

It has issued a strongly worded rebuff to the claims made against it. In its statement, Motability said:

motabilityThe Daily Mail claims there is a £2.4bn ‘cash stockpile’ or ‘spare £2.4bn’.

It’s quite clear to us that the Daily Mail has totally misunderstood what this £2.4 billion of reserves represents. It is not held as cash but is used to buy cars for disabled people. This reduces the amount of borrowing required.

It also underpins the scheme’s financial stability, protecting it from the business risks it faces, particularly in relation to used car values. The Charity Commission has today stated “that we consider the level of operating capital held by the company in order to guarantee the scheme to be conservative”.

Moving on to the issue of the salary paid to Mike Betts, the charity said:

The remuneration of Motability Operations directors is decided by the Motability operations board, based on the advice of their remuneration committee.

Successful and effective

Remuneration is reviewed against the market to ensure that it is both competitive over the long term, and to ensure that any rewards are related to performance especially in relation to the quality of service provided to customers.

The current chief executive of Motability Operations, Mike Betts, has been in place since 2003 and has been instrumental in ensuring the company is able to operate successfully and effectively.

So, we have allegations and a complete rebuff. Now, we will have to wait for the inquiries to be completed and all the facts to be established.

Until then, I’ll give Motability the benefit of any doubt. After all, like anyone else, the company should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

•  Having multiple sclerosis£££, I was awarded the top level of both care and mobility elements of Disabled Living Allowance. I chose to use the mobility element to get a Motability car when I lived in Wales. While I still have the same award, the mobility element is not paid outside the UK and so, living in Spain, I don’t receive it. However, if I moved back to Britain, I would be paid it again.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Motability scheme improvements? Really?

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How can they do it? That’s the question being asked, and for good reason, after a UK government minister’s amazing statement last week.

And I’d say that not only is Penny Mordaunt, minister for disabled people (and that includes those of us with MS), on thin ice but that she is in danger of crashing right through it – because what she told MPs is really unbelievable.

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Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP.

According to Mordaunt, she is planning to:

  • Allow claimants to keep their Motability vehicle whilst appealing a decision that they do not qualify for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP.
  • Allow claimants to continue receiving the mobility component of PIP if they are abroad for more than 13 weeks, even where the reason for absence is not connected with medical treatment.7
  • Allow claimants to access the Motability scheme even if they are not in receipt of the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP.

BenefitsandWork.co.uk says: “That the DWP is considering letting claimants to keep their Motability vehicle whilst appealing – where they will have around a 60% chance of success – is surprising,

“But it is the last of these suggestions that is the most remarkable. The standard rate for PIP mobility is £21.80 a week. The enhanced rate is £57.45.

“If Mordaunt is suggesting that claimants getting the standard rate should also have access to Motability then the obvious question is: how will the shortfall be made up?

“If the proposal is that simply that standard rate mobility recipients can get a Motability vehicle provided they make up the shortfall of £35.65 a week themselves, then this is not much of a gesture.

“On the other hand, it is very hard to see how the cost of a Motability vehicle could be reduced to just £21.80 a week.”

motabilityThat’s exactly the problem. This government, under both former pri.me minister David Cameron and replacement Theresa May, has proved itself keen to cut the budgets for welfare benefits – and now one of its ministers is suggesting spendi.ng more money in support of its Motability scheme. Or maybe she is alternatively putting forward an idea that will cost each claimant more than £35.

Either way, it shows an amazing level of political naivety and an astounding lack of understanding of, or compassion for, people with disabilities.

BenefitsandWork.co.uk says: “Worryingly, Mordaunt referred in her announcement to people in receipt of the ‘higher Motability component’. By that, the minister appeared to mean the enhanced rate of the mobility component.

“A minister who has yet to master even the most basic terminology relating to her portfolio is not one who inspires confidence . . . let alone hope.”

There, I have to agree. Totally.

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ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Paralympians fear losing their cars through government benefit cuts

Some of the British athletes, including two with multiple sclerosis, heading to Rio for the Paralympics fear losing their cars supplied through the Motability Scheme after being reassessed as part of the government’s programme of benefit cuts and reforms. This has been revealed by a member of the ParalympicsGB team – according to the Disability Information Service.

The report, by John Pring, continues:

Some Paralympians have spoken previously of the importance of the support they receive from the benefits system, particularly through disability living allowance (DLA), but this is the first confirmation that any of them have lost that support as a result of the government’s austerity programme.

The concerns were raised by wheelchair-racer Ben Rowlings, one of the young track stars of the British team, who is set to compete in the T34 100 metres and 800 metres in Rio, and holds the British record at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres.

He currently receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA, which has allowed him to use that payment to lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme.Hannah-and-Ben-702x336_edited

But like hundreds of thousands of other disabled people, he has been told he will be reassessed for the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – introduced in 2013 in a bid to cut working-age DLA spending by 20% – and that an assessment of his eligibility will take place next year.

The Shropshire resident does much of his training 50 miles away in Coventry, alongside fellow Paralympians Kare Adenegan and Mel Nicholls, and told Disability News Service this week that the PIP reassessment could put his career in jeopardy if it results in him losing his Motability car.

He said: “It is something that’s on my mind because without the access to having my Motability car… I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the training that I do.

“I need my car, I need the support to get me around to places, and training and work, because racing is my job, and without the support of the Motability [car]and the DLA, I wouldn’t be able to get to training.”

The 20-year-old said he knew of fellow Paralympians who have already lost their Motability cars after being reassessed for PIP.

He said: “There have been Paralympians who have been told that they are too able to claim Motability and they have had to fight to get the cars back because they have been taken off them.

“I don’t know too much about it, I haven’t spoken to them about it because that’s a personal matter for them, but it’s something I’m a little bit concerned about.”

He said he was not comfortable providing further details about colleagues, and could not say how many fellow team-members had lost their Motability vehicles, but added: “All I know is anyone with disabilities is getting assessed at the moment, so it’s a possibility for any of us.”

Last month, another ParalympicsGB star wheelchair-racer, Hannah Cockroft (pictured with Rowlings), told DNS she was “scared” that she would lose her independence when she was reassessed for PIP.

Cockroft, who won double gold at London 2012, has also yet to be assessed for PIP, but she said that she was dreading her eventual reassessment, the possibility of having her support cut, and potentially losing the car she leases through the Motability scheme.

Motability has said that it expects 35,000 vehicles will have to be returned by disabled people during 2016 as a result of the PIP reassessment programme.

Of Motability customers reassessed for PIP so far, 44% of them have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.

You can read the full Disability News Service story here.

 

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Disability: There is no 20-metre rule, says minister

Baroness Altmann

Baroness Altmann

Most readers of my blog will know that I have a disability, namely multiple sclerosis, that causes significant mobility issues. This means that I need to use a wheelchair to move more than 15 metres; and that’s on a good day. As such I receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

For everyone who lives in the United States, or anywhere else outside the UK, I need to explain that everyone who receives the UK’s DLA mobility component at the highest rate has been able to use it to have a Motability car instead. This is their own choice of car from the list of vehicles available from the Motability organisation. The car is provided absolutely new and complete with insurance, servicing, tyres, windscreen – in fact, everything except fuel.

With DLA now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the same arrangements remain in place. Well, the same except that the requirements to qualify for the highest rate mobility payment have been changed. It is now more difficult to obtain the highest level.

According to the government’s own figures, this will lead to some than 428,000 people having to return their Motability cars as they are reassessed for PIP and not given the top rate of mobility component.

The key change to the eligibility to that mobility payment is that while the DLA assessment said that anyone who was unable to walk 50 metres was entitled to the highest rate, under PIP that distance is now reduced to just 20 metres.

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) and the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), among other organisations, have criticised the new 20 metre restriction as being arbitrary and unfair, saying the 50 metre assessment was a well-established and research-based measure of significant mobility impairment.

Confusion still reigns on this contentious point, however.

Despite contrary experiences of many DLA recipients when they have been reassessed for PIP, Baroness Altmann, minister of state for the department for work and pensions, speaking in the House of Lords on May 4, said: “I would like to clarify what appears to be a widespread misconception regarding the differences between the mobility assessment in PIP and the mobility assessment in DLA.

“Many noble Lords have spoken of a ‘20-metre rule’, but there is no such rule. Some people believe that we have changed the assessment of a distance a claimant is able to walk from 50 metres to 20 metres. This is not the case. The higher rate of DLA was always intended to be for claimants who were unable, or virtually unable, to walk. This is still the case in PIP, but we have gone further.

“Under PIP, if a claimant cannot walk up to 20 metres safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner, they are guaranteed to receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component. If a claimant cannot walk up to 50 metres safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner, then they are guaranteed to receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component.”

As a result of that debate, officials from the DWP are to meet with representatives of both DRUK and DBC, It will be interesting to see the results of those discussions.

 

 

 

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