Blow for Leeds’s disabled after lifeline vehicles are taken away

Tracey Brookes.
Tracey Brookes.
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Disabled people in Leeds who rely on special cars to remain independent are having their vehicles taken away after being told they no longer qualify for help.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP), introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, replaces the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) given out by the Government to those living with a disability.

The Government has today been accused of “making life harder for disabled people”, after mobility cars – provided under PIP for people who could not otherwise drive – were recalled from two city residents.

They include Dave Allen, from Wortley, who in 2007 was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, which gradually stops nerve cells from working, eventually making walking, speaking, swallowing and even breathing impossible.

After having a mobility car as part of his disability benefit for more than seven years, he was sent a form to reassess his claim.

“It was a form asking how far could I walk and things like that but it varies day to day for me,” the 58-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“I can’t put my coat on, I have trouble getting dressed, I have fallen down the steps a few times. I’m able to drive but I need an automatic car, I can’t drive manuals because my hands are getting worse. I do need help.”

Following the death of Mr Allen’s wife Susan in November, who also acted as his primary carer, he said he received a letter in December notifying him that he was no longer entitled to his car.

The vehicle is due to be recalled on Tuesday.

He added: “This will change my life. This isn’t only happening to me, it’s happening to a lot of people. It’s a disgrace.”

In Armley, a stroke turned single mum-of-four Tracey Brookes’ life upside down in February 2015. And, after being given a mobility car as part of her PIP claim, she was told just weeks before Christmas that it was being recalled.

She now has limited mobility in the left side of her body and hand following the stroke and was asked to attend a medical reassessment last year.

Ms Brookes, who works in Meanwood for Leeds City Council’s Stars autism outreach team, said the exam consisted of asking her to raise her arms, cross her legs and squeeze someone’s hand.

“From that, they decided I was no longer entitled to PIP or a mobility vehicle,” she said.

“I still struggle to walk because I get tired quicker and my leg gets weak. I didn’t lie about my symptoms and that’s obviously been to my detriment.”

Her car was taken away on Monday.

Ms Brookes now relies on her dad Roger, 69, to help.

She added: “By removing my car, they are taking away my independence.

“I can no longer drive to work or take my children to school. I’m relying on other people to do that for me.

“If it wasn’t for my father, it would mean I would lose my job.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure disabled people keep their independence.

She said taking away mobility cars from Ms Brookes and Mr Allen was “a huge blow to their ability to remain independent, take part in the community and get to work”. She said: “They face the very real possibility of losing the car they rely on as a result of being reassessed under PIP, despite having previously qualified for mobility help under DLA. Sadly, they are not the only ones in this situation and I hope that cases like these are dealt with swiftly and fairly by the Department for Work and Pensions, to make sure disabled people are not losing their independence and security because this government seems intent on making life harder for disabled people.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Decisions for PIP are made after considering all of the evidence from the claimant and their GP. Anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal, and in most cases anyone leaving the Motability scheme is eligible for a one-off payment of £2,000 to help meet their needs.”

Claimants are entitled to a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ of PIP claims after decisions are made.

The spokesperson said Ms Brookes’ mandatory reconsideration has awarded her the PIP standard rate of care, and that her payments will now be backdated.

They added that a case manager upheld the original decision about Mr Allen’s PIP claim in December as correct.

The Government spends £50bn on benefits to support people with disabilities.

The spokesperson said that under PIP, 24 per cent of claimants are now receiving the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under Disability Living Allowance.