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Motability changes see expensive cars removed

Date: 31 October 2011

Motability, which provides cars to the disabled and is effectively the UK's largest single fleet, has announced changes to the way it operates following criticism regarding perceived abuse of the scheme.

In June, The Sunday Times revealed that a proportion of taxpayer-funded cars were not being used to help disabled people. As a result, the number of cars available on the list will be halved as the more expensive models are no longer offered, although bosses claim only 5% of customers will be affected.

As of December 2011, the not-for-profit organisation is ruling out cars with a price of around £25,000 or higher, that being those needing an advance payment of more than £2000. Disabled people given a Disability Living Allowance can choose to spend it on a vehicle, and if the monthly cost of the vehicle exceeds the DLA, the advance payment makes up the shortfall. That advance payment is now limited to £2000, which will, according to Motability chairman Lord Sterling, effect one in 20 of the scheme's 600,000 customers.

"Although we know that 30% of our customers take cars with no advance payment and only 5% take cars with advance payment of more than £2000, over 50% of the models currently listed in the price guide have advance payments above this level," said Lord Sterling. "We have therefore decided to rationalise the range of cars available through the scheme". The only exception will be vehicles that need heavy modification for disabled users.

Other changes include a restriction on nominated drivers to those living within five miles of the customer, the potential for new vehicle technologies to monitor the use of cars where "the greatest risk of abuse" is perceived, and two insurance changes. Nominated drivers will need to be aged over 20 unless they live with the disabled customer, and any drivers under the age of 25 will be limited to cars lower than insurance group 17 and with no more than 115hp.

Lord Sterling defended the scheme's record after The Sunday Times allegations of abuse by members. "Like any organisation with close to 600,000 customers there will be a small minority of customers who will try and abuse the scheme," he said, claiming Motability worked with people including motor dealers, the police and DVLA to prevent misuse.