An Open Letter to Ford

An Open Letter to Ford

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-car-driver-wheelchair-disabled-using-entering-his-image35932976

Dear Ford Foray Dealership in Taunton

Nine months ago my friend started the process to get a car on the Motability scheme.  A Ford C-Max – which has a fabulously tall boot which is perfect for fitting the hoist in for her wheelchair. Her current car is much smaller, and she has to break her electric wheelchair up into six pieces to fit it in, which is an exhausting process when you have multiple chronic conditions including Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility.

Motability decided to be awkward when approving her application, and she had to fight with them for seven months before they agreed that the C-Max was the right car for her needs, but finally she was given the go-ahead, the order was placed and she began counting down the days!

Not only would it have a hoist, but Motability (through their charitable grant-giving scheme) paid for some optional extras to make her life easier including an automatic boot opener, parking sensors and keyless entry.  These extras are essential to someone living in chronic pain, and can make a world of difference. As luck would have it, the car was already built with the optional extras she required, so it was reserved for her.

Having the C-Max also brought about other exciting possibilities for her, such as being able to arrange visits to friends and a short break away, that she’d been restricted from doing in her current car, which due to its size has to have the back seats down in order to fit her wheelchair in.

The car was brought down from the north to Taunton ready for my friend to collect.  She then received a call from the dealership to say they were having problems registering the car, so the pick-up would have to be delayed for a couple of days.  She agreed, but then received a second call on Monday to say that they’d realised why they couldn’t register it – another dealership had sold her car.

Her car.

That she’d waited months for, with all the extras Motability had paid extra for.

She was very upset, as you can imagine – and then Ford stuck the boot in even further, and informed her that because the C-Max is being relaunched, there is only one other car in the country available.  She was told she’d have to wait another month for it – and it wouldn’t have any of the extras she needed included. This also meant all her plans for having a holiday, and visiting friends suddenly couldn’t happen either, as they were all planned for this month and aren’t possible in her current car.

How could this have happened?  How could a dealership have sold a car that was ordered through the Motability Scheme, with lots of extras to make a disabled person’s life easier?

And how can the dealership think offering a car without all those extras be okay?  That’s NOT what was ordered, and not what Motability have paid for.

The Motability scheme has been around since 1978 and 3.5 million cars have been leased through it – surely Ford should know what they’re doing by now?

Would a customer who was purchasing directly be treated this way?

How are you going to put this right, Ford?

Yours sincerely

Jade at The Chronic Chronicles

So you’ve lost your Motability Car – what next?

So you’ve lost your Motability Car – what next?

Disabled Driver Motability Scheme

One of the greatest fears currently facing people on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is when they will be reassessed for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), and whether they will still be deemed eligible for the benefit. The current timescales for reassessment is that anyone receiving DLA whose claim is coming up for renewal will be reassessed at that time, and those who have previously received an indefinite DLA award will start to be reassessed from October 2015.

Many people who have the High Rate Mobility element of DLA will have swapped their benefit payment to receive a car on the Motabilty scheme instead. The whole point of the Motability Scheme was that it was recognised that the cost of buying a decent and reliable car that met the needs of the disabled person was going to be prohibitive in cost.

My first Motability car was a Ford Focus, but not long after I’d had it I was assessed as needing a new electric wheelchair, and unfortunately no matter which chair I’d gone for, it wasn’t going to fit into the car.  So Motability allowed me to change my car earlier than the normal three year lease. The most important feature I was looking for in a new car was a high boot to accommodate the height of the hoist to get the wheelchair in and out, and also have room for the chair itself.

In an ideal world I would have been looking for a small car – such as a Ford Fiesta (I do really like Fords, but any car around that size) in a bright blue, but the large boot thing crossed those off the list, and mostly left huge van-like cars and seven seaters, and when I was looking they all seemed to come in dull colours.  I’m going to be honest and say I didn’t want to be driving such a big car, particularly a big box of a van, or a seven seater. And yeah, maybe I’m being picky, but I am in my 20s without six children, and I’d feel silly driving such a big car.

So, I went out searching for a car that fit what I needed, and with a tiny, tiny dash of what I wanted (as small as possible while still fitting the chair). I went to 17 dealerships in my town and, measured a lot of boots. Funnily enough I ended up back at the Ford dealership – looking at the Ford C-Max which is actually based on the Ford Focus, but is taller. It had other benefits as well, it was generally higher – which really helped with getting in and out of it. It has keyless entry, which to me is such a lifesaver. I often have wrist flare ups which makes it difficult to turn a key, but also when you’ve put your wheelchair away, and are using sticks to get in the car, it saves valuable time of searching through your bag looking for the keys, when every additional second on your feet is incredibly painful.  Similarly when I reach the car, I’m drained and again it’s so handy to just worry about getting in, than trying to unlock everything.

Motability also offer a means-tested grant scheme. Usually if you pick a bigger car, it has a larger advance payment – and they expect you to cover it, as you chose it.  However the reason I needed a bigger car was for documented disability-related reasons, so I was eligible for the grant.

Having the car allows me to leave my home on good days.  I’m not always driving, in fact the vast majority of the time someone else drives me, but my wheelchair can’t be lifted without a pretty heavy-duty hoist, so isn’t possible to go into another car.  I also can’t use a bus (for lots of different reasons too numerous to mention), and the wheelchair accessible taxis are few and far between, charge a lot more (despite being illegal), need booking days in advance and often don’t turn up and so leave you stranded.

I see my car as an extension of my mobility aid.  It’s a place I store things helpful to my condition; it has seats I can cover in cushions and blankets so I can sleep on the journey and have less pain; it has a seat I can recline back so pressure is taken off my spine; it has additional medications hidden away just in case and if I’m out for a longer day, it’s a place I can return to in order to rest/sleep to help me get through it.

Without my car I’d be trapped at home, so the thought of losing my Mobility Element when I transfer to PIP is a constant worry.  Now, you might think those who are genuine have nothing to fear – but this, sadly, is not the case.  Look at all the regular articles in the press about people who have been told they’re perfectly healthy and had their benefits removed, and yet just looking at the conditions or health issues they have shown they’re obviously entitled to the benefit. The high rate of appeals that overturn the decision made by the Department of Work and Pension’s also show things are regularly going wrong.

However, the real fear is that the government have declared their intentions.  We know that the fraud and error rate of Disability Living Allowance is just 0.5%, and yet the government have declared that 42% of working-age people will no longer be eligible for the Motability scheme under the new system.  They are therefore admitting in perfectly plain language that they are targeting legitimate claimants, and removing them from the scheme. Of course some of the rules have also changed, particularly of concern is the distance someone can walk.  Under DLA it was 50m, but it has now reduced to 20m.  This will have a huge impact on people with painful conditions that may simply vary depending on the day. 20m is not far at all – it’s often less than the walk into a shop, or from a parking spot to someone’s front door. This will of course mean many people will no longer be able to work, or go to their local hospital or GP, let alone do normal day-to-day activities like shopping or visiting a friend.

I know so many people like me are living with this fear that I wanted to look at some of the possible alternatives and solutions if someone does not receive the new PIP Enhanced Mobility. These suggestions won’t suit everyone, but may provide a little bit of comfort that there is some help available at least.

First of all if you do find yourself in a position of no longer being assessed as eligible to receive PIP and you have a Motability car, you will continue to receive your DLA payments for four weeks, and you will also be able to retain your vehicle for another three weeks from the date of payments stop – so this gives you around two months to try and find an alternative. You will also be given the option of purchasing your vehicle, and can use these three weeks of payments towards the cost of this.

The government has also announced a payment will be made to people in this position to help with sourcing alternative transportation. For those of us that joined the scheme before January 2013, and therefore were unaware of the impending risk of PIP, will receive £2000. For those who joined after this time will receive £1000.

For customers with wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) Motability may be able to help the customer keep their current vehicle depending on their circumstances, and for those with adapted cars they will pay for the adaptations to be made to a non-scheme vehicle.

It’s well worth knowing this information, as in my experience with similar promises, it may only be offered if you ask for it.

Another option is to privately purchase or lease a car from an independent organisation such as Allied Mobility. They offer both a lease option, and sell adapted cars and WAVs that were previously on the Motability scheme.  A company like this will be used to dealing with disabled customers, to may be able to offer more assistance with the transfer between cars.

So there is a little bit of help out there, and some alternatives. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, and I hope that anyone reading this will not be impacted by the changes, or can find an alternative that meets your needs.

Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add?  Please comment below.

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Stretching Disability Living Allowance to its Limit

Stretching Disability Living Allowance to its Limit

Yesterday I had an assessment by Social Services for Direct Payments.  I’d been waiting about seven months for it after being assessed as ‘Urgent’.  The Social Worker was fine – we talked through my condition, how it impacts me, the average day and what help I need.

What I did find interesting during the assessment is that after I was asked to give an overall idea of the help I’d ideally like – she then gave me a list of everything that my Disability Living Allowance was expected to cover, and so Social Services would not.  From my list this included all cleaning, gardening, treatments not covered by the NHS, help with pets, and any activities even if they related to quality of life/better health and more.

As an aside, while I was aware of the cleaning issue, I am appalled that Social Services won’t help people with disabilities with cleaning at all.  It’s not a cheap service to have, and I find it totally impossible to do such physical tasks as hovering, dusting, clothes washing, changing the bed sheets – and there’s people a lot worse than me out there.  So they’ll pay to get you out of bed, and showered – then leave you in squalor to fend for yourselves?

But, back to my main point, I thought it was interesting how far she expected DLA to stretch.  I currently use my DLA for an adapted car that has a hoist for my wheelchair.  Without this, I couldn’t leave the house – as my wheelchair won’t go on buses, and wheelchair-adapted taxis are a rare sight to behold in my town (and usually double the price).   Other people will often use this payment to hire a wheelchair from Mutability, or on taxis to get out and about.

Out of the rest of my DLA I and many others pay for things like extra heating, carers, mobility aids, therapeutic devices, special clothing/shoes, food that’s easier to cook (pre-prepared), the higher rents of accessible accommodation, medications, supplements, extra washing loads, specialist exercise programmes, special cushions, adapted items, insurance for wheelchair/scooter, petrol for additional car journeys (doctors/hospitals/travel to specialists often miles away, physiotherapists, other therapists, assessments as well as journeys most people would walk – but you have to drive instead) and so much more.

Of course people with disabilities are statistically more likely to be on a lower-income than the average person, even when able to work.  So DLA may also help towards rent, bills and normal day-to-day living costs.

When I was trying to obtain an electric wheelchair through the NHS, as I am physically unable to manually propel – I explained I was using my Mobility Payments on a car that I needed to get to work.  The assessors response was that I should be using it on a wheelchair.  I pointed out that if I used it on a wheelchair and gave up my car, the wheelchair would have to live in the garden – and I would have to live on the sofa, as the car was vital in transporting the wheelchair, so what would be the point of that?  She had no answer.  It seemed it was their policy to be telling people to spend the DLA on wheelchairs too.

But it doesn’t cover a fraction of the extra costs I have for being disabled, and while I totally understand there isn’t a limitless supply of funds – it doesn’t help when agencies are putting more and more strain onto the benefit.  Exactly how far do they expect DLA to go?

wheelchair push

…and a new car!

…and a new car!

In order to get my new wheelchair, I also had to get a new car.  In the UK we have a benefit called Disability Living Allowance (well, for now, until the government rip it away.)  It’s a brilliant concept, designed to help cover the many extra costs of being disabled.  You can still work and claim it, as long as you meet the criteria.  There are two elements to it – Care and Mobility.  You can get one or the other, or both, and there a different rates within it.

If you’re awarded High Rate Mobility, you have three options.  You can receive it in cash form, or you can swap it for a car, or a mobility aid (wheelchair or scooter.)  If you pick the car option, you go through a charity called Motability, and in swapping the payment you get the car, insurance, breakdown cover, etc.  Everything except petrol.

There are a range of cars on the scheme, starting from basic where you simply swap the payment, to larger or fancier cars – where you pay an upfront cost beforehand.  One issue I have with this is many wheelchair users need a larger car to fit the wheelchair in, or the hoist.  It’s not a choice to have a large car for any other reason.  I personally, would be happiest with the smallest car possible (other than a Smart Car!) but I had to get a bigger one for practical reasons and that costs a much larger down-payment.

But it’s a great scheme and they also offer adaptations.  Some are free, such as hand controls.  Others you pay for.  They also have a grants system for low-income people to apply for to help towards the cost of either the car itself, or adaptations.

This scheme alone is responsible for thousands of people with disabilities leading an active, independent life, and being able to access the workplace.  Seriously, do you know how much adaptations cost?

So, my first Motabilty car was a Ford Focus.  I really liked it, and I had a hoist, but when I needed to get a better wheelchair, I found nothing would fit in the car that met my needs.

After looking at seventeen different car dealerships, and trying out what felt like hundreds of cars – I arrived back at Ford.  Their C-Max is based on the Focus, and isn’t much bigger – but it is taller and higher.  This helped both the hoist, and getting in and out.  I now have the car, and will use the pictures to explain more.

The front (obviously!)

The front (obviously!)

IMG_3822

The height makes it much easier to get in and out

The height makes it much easier to get in and out

There are lots of things to make driving easier - like it parks for you automatically

There are lots of things to make driving easier – like it parks for you automatically

The boot opens and closes at the touch of button, which can be reached from the wheelchair.

The boot opens and closes at the touch of button, which can be reached from the wheelchair.

The hoist for the wheelchair

The hoist for the wheelchair

The hoist in action

The hoist in action

The new hoist has four-way control - which is great!

The new hoist has four-way control – which is great!