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Govt concerns over PIP loan scheme to fund assistive technology inquiry

19 September 2018

Last year, the Work and Pensions Committee launched an inquiry into assistive technology, following up on its inquiry into the Disability employment gap (DEG).

In our response to the government’s business strategy, Disability Rights UK recognised how key the development and use of assistive technology is to promoting independence and getting disabled people into work.

We went further than this. We wanted to see the UK become a “world leader in assistive and healthcare technology – building on the strong positioning and reputation that we already have.”

The published Committee report recognised the difference that Assistive Technology (AT) already makes to the lives of disabled people in terms of independent living and increased work opportunities. However, the Committee concluded that the rapidly growing advances in AT were untapped and could have a transformative impact on the disability employment gap.

The government has now responded to the findings of this inquiry

Recommendations regarding PIP

For the most part the responses highlight existing training, funding and information provision being undertaken in relation to existing initiatives, such as Disability Confidence and Access to Work. The Government also claims it is removing financial disincentives for employers taking up technology-based solutions via the Access to Work Tech Fund and the Flexible Support Fund

Recommendation 5 was, perhaps, the most interesting but was rejected by the government, for the time being.

Under recommendation 5, there would be a new finance scheme for the daily living component of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), giving claimants the option of a low interest loan to buy or lease assistive technology products.

Users of the scheme should be offered a consultation before buying equipment, with expert assistive technology advisers, to ensure they are buying the most appropriate and cost-effective equipment.

The Department would not necessarily have to administer the scheme but would have to ensure that whoever company does so works in line with the principles of providing a public service.

The Government felt this was a complex area that would need careful consideration before taking the proposal further, including:

  • the level of interest charged to claimants;

  • the commercial model (e.g. using an independent, profit-making organisation);

  • value for money, and determining whether there would be a cost saving for claimants; and

  • the provision of financial advice to claimants to ensure vulnerable claimants were not put at risk.

The government also wants to consider future findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) Section 6 review of Motability before considering this specific recommendation further and coming to a view on what the most appropriate options are for improving access to assistive technology for PIP claimants.

So, watch this space.