The High Court has granted permission for a full hearing of the judicial review challenge to the government’s introduction of more stringent qualifying criteria for mobility benefit for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme.
Two law firms, Public Law Solicitors and Leigh Day, had challenged the legality of the introduction of the new benefit, on the grounds that the government failed to consult properly, before changing the distance a claimant can travel from 50 metres to 20 metres, in order to qualify for the mobility component. The change was made after consultations were complete.
Steven Sumpter, who has ME, can only walk a few metres with a stick and is otherwise dependent on a wheelchair. He was assessed as eligible for the high rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) last year and has used this to lease a Motability car. Along with thousands of others, he fears that he may lose this benefit under the new Regulations (1). Under the DLA scheme, a person is entitled to the higher rate if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be virtually unable to walk if they cannot walk more than 50m. Under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme, the relevant distance is reduced to 20m.
Karen Ashton from Public Law Solicitors who represents Mr Sumpter said:
“I am very pleased that the court has found that this case deserves a full hearing. The higher rate of mobility benefit can make an extraordinary difference to a disabled person’s life. But the Government failed to mention the reduction to 20m in their consultations and so those who might be affected did not have the chance to put their case and explain how devastating the consequences will be.”
Jane Young, an independent consultant currently working with the We are Spartacus campaigning network, said:
“Whilst it is true that under the PIP regulations and guidance, in order to be considered able to walk not more than 20 metres a claimant should be able to do so “safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and within a reasonable time period”, the fact remains that 20 metres is an extremely short distance. Our concern is that by denying people with significant walking difficulties support for independent mobility, the regulations will seriously compromise their well-being. Disabled people who can only walk short distances face being stuck in their homes, isolated and unable to travel independently to health appointments, to work, to the shops or to social activities. This is especially the case in rural areas, where public transport is infrequent, inadequate and inaccessible and long travel distances are the norm.”
Note: By agreement with the government’s lawyers and the court, only Steve Sumpter’s case is going ahead at this stage and it is expected that the full hearing will take place in July.