CONCERNS were raised in Tynwald about whether the disabled were being ‘penalised’ over the Motability scheme.
Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw explained that because the government had decided not to increase the rate of Disability Living Allowance this year – although the UK had raised it by 5.2 per cent in line with inflation – there was now a £413.40 shortfall for those wanting to lease a Motability car.
This sum would now have to be paid up front in full by the driver.
Mr Robertshaw said: ‘I think members will agree with me that it is not unreasonable to expect a person who is being provided with brand new vehicle every three or five years to have to make a reasonably modest one-off payment, especially in the current financial climate.’
But the Minister said he was conscious that it would be difficult for those on the lowest incomes to finance this payment.
A new interest-free loan scheme will be available to those on income-related benefits to help them meet that £413.40 payment.
Repayments of this loan work out at £2.65 per week over a three-year lease or £1.59 per week for a five-year lease.
Mr Robertshaw said: ‘My officers have worked diligently with Motability UK to secure the arrangements. I believe these provide for the fairest outcome. They ensure that the mobility scheme continues to be available to Isle of Man residents who meet the disability criteria, those who can afford to make a relatively small one-off payment are required to do so, and those on the lowest incomes who may have difficulty with meeting the upfront payment can receive help from my department.’
But Kate Beecroft (Lib Van, Douglas South) said: ‘Whilst £2.65 to an awful lot of people does not seem very much, to somebody who is obviously disabled sufficiently to be granted the higher level of the mobility scheme, this actually could be quite a bit of money. Could the Minister explain how this move fits in with protecting the vulnerable, which is one of the three key aims of this government?
‘I just think it is very, very unfair that the most vulnerable in our society, who are the disabled and who are the ones on low incomes, are actually being penalised to £2.65 a week.’
The Minister said he had ‘enormous sympathy’ with Mrs Beecroft’s comments. But he insisted it was a ‘work in progress‘, given that his department was looking at means-testing universal benefits and that it would have to consider whether to follow the example of the UK in replacing of Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment.
‘Is it perfect at the present time? No, of course it is not. Do we want to get to a better place? Yes,’ he said.
Mrs Beecroft said: ‘I am wondering how, until we get to that better place, he is going to assist those who are being currently disadvantaged – if the rules change, will they be able to claim it back retrospectively? There is no doubt those people are being disadvantaged and will be until the work in progress actually gets to a place where he wants it to be.’
Mr Robertshaw said it could not be retrospectively adjusted.
John Houghton (Douglas North) suggested that claims could be made to the public Lottery Trust for those not on Income Support and who are faced with a £413 one-off payment or £689 in respect of wheelchair-assisted vehicles.
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