The latest victim of the Government’s scroungers and fiddlers agenda is Motability, which has announced new restrictions on the service it will offer. Helen Dolphin says they are not only giving in to tabloid headlines, they’re also limiting disabled people’s right to choose.
It has become a regular occurrence for national newspapers to publish stories on the Motability scheme often containing misleading and inaccurate information. A favourite misconception is that taxpayers are funding luxury cars for disabled people which are not even driven by them! I don’t know how many times I’ve tried explaining to journalists that it really doesn’t matter if someone chooses a BMW X5 or a Renault Kangoo the cost to the taxpayer is exactly the same, any extra costs are met by the disabled person. And as for not all Motability cars being driven by disabled people – do they not realise that children and visually impaired people get DLA?
But I’m sad to say Motability has succumbed to this media pressure and no longer will any disabled person be getting a “luxury” car on the scheme. This is because from immediate effect Motability have limited the range of vehicles available to cars with an Advance Payment of £2,000 or less, approximating to a Recommended Retail Price limit of circa £25,000.
Motability say this change will simplify the scheme and focus on those who need their help the most. Although only 5% of scheme users have a vehicle with an advance payment greater than £2,000 I fail to see why depriving disabled people of the right to choose what car they like is going to help the scheme. All it is doing is reducing consumer choice and preference. It’s not going to help reduce the country’s debt or cut the welfare bill. If someone wants to put their own money towards a bigger, faster, fancier car I can’t see why it is a problem.
But what I do see as a problem is going to be a reduced choice of vehicles especially for those of us who need automatics as these are always more expensive. Looking at the choice for an Audi there are now 15 manual and just one automatic, Alfa Romeo, seven manual and 0 automatic and Seat, 46 manual, ten automatic. Add other requirements to the list such as diesel engine and four doors and the choice becomes even less.
One disgruntled customer is Tracey Proudlock. She said: “It seems pure spite to me that we’re being restricted on what cars to buy through Motability. I have a “luxury” car, by that I mean it’s a 7-seater and is automatic so yes it’s more expensive. I usually have two wheelchairs to carry, my day chair and a sports chair and I have a family. Today when I go away for a break I usually have to take bathroom equipment with me. So some of us have massive cars because we want to bath and dress safely, play a bit of sport and still have enough room not to dump our babies on the motorway hard shoulder.”
Along with the restriction on what vehicles people can chose there are further restrictions on who can be a nominated driver. No longer will it be acceptable for a nominated driver to live further than five miles away. These new rules are all about stopping Motability cars from being misused in the perception of so much of the national press. Although Motability is the first to admit that the scheme does suffer from abuse they work with motor dealers, the DVLA and the police to do what they can to protect it.
During the last financial year they dealt with 7,144 allegations relating to fraud or abuse of the scheme. Enforcement action was taken by Motability in 2,139 cases, including 829 customers who had their agreements terminated and their cars withdrawn. In addition, 486 applicants were suspended or permanently excluded from the scheme.
I think for a scheme with over half a million customers this is a very small amount of abuse and nothing to what the national press perceive. I feel quite sad that Motability felt it had no option other to respond to this criticism by restricting the scheme for its customers. So for the next year I will enjoy driving my BMW before my lease runs out. And for any jealous tabloid press reader I’m sure I speak for most customers when I say I would gladly give you my car if I could have my mobility back.