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.