The government is holding off on making a decision on introducing a proposed finance scheme for the daily living component of PIP, which would be similar to Motability and aimed at helping disabled people to access assistive technology.
The Work and Pensions Committee recommended in a report that the government launch a new scheme that would be contracted out to a private organisation and see claimants have the option of a low interest loan to buy or lease assistive technology products.
But the government has said it does not want to commit to introducing a new scheme until the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed its findings on the Motability scheme, which has come under criticism for having stockpiled billions of pounds and overpaying its bosses.
Users of the proposed scheme would be offered a consultation before buying equipment, with expert assistive technology advisers, to ensure they are buying the most appropriate and cost-effective equipment.
Under the proposals, the government would not have to administer the scheme, but would instead contract it out to a company, thereby making it similar to Motability.
But in its response to the committee’s suggestions, the government said while it wants to improve access to assistive technology, “has concerns” about introducing a new finance scheme.
“This is a complex area and there are a number of issues regarding the provision of loans to claimants that would need careful consideration before taking the proposal further.”
Among its concerns are 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.
It added: “As you are also aware, the National Audit Office are currently starting work on their Section 6 review of Motability.
“In light of the concerns outlined above and the ongoing NAO review, we want to reflect on the findings of the NAO before considering this specific recommendation further and coming to a view on what the most appropriate.”
Since the committee’s report however, outlining a number of recommendations to increase the uptake of assistive technology, the government has introduced a new Tech Fund that means employers do not have to contribute to the costs of acquiring assistive technology to adapt the workplace.
Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Disabled People, outlined a new strategy for increasing the adoption of assistive technology in various spheres.
Commenting on the government’s response to the report, Alex Burghart MP, Committee Member, said: “Assistive Technology is a silver bullet. It can enable people into jobs they would otherwise not have been able to do – this can be life changing. It’s excellent to see the government taking it seriously.”
Image: Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton MP, has pushed through a new Tech Fund to boost assistive technology. Dan Mullan/Getty Images