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The Motability Scheme has been helping disabled people to get around for 40 years, and continues to play a vital role in the lives of many to this day.

If you want to learn more about the Scheme – which you can join if you receive a higher rate mobility allowance – take a look at the following guide. In it, we discuss the origins of the Motability Scheme, how it works, and what the future may hold.

How it began

Lord_Goodman

The Motability Scheme was founded in 1977 and launched the following year by two peers, Lord Sterling of Plaistow and Lord Goodman (pictured).

The Motability Scheme was developed following the introduction of the Mobility Allowance. The Mobility Allowance was widely welcomed when it was introduced in 1976 (prior to this date, virtually the only state-funded transportation help given to people with reduced mobility was leasing them a small ‘Invacar’), but it still did not allow enough disabled people to purchase, run and maintain their own vehicles.

The Motability Scheme helped to solve this problem by allowing disabled people to put their Mobility Allowance towards the lease of either a standard vehicle or one which has been specially modified for use by those with specific mobility limitations, such as wheelchair users. The Scheme is not limited to cars, either – powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters can also be leased through it.

Lord Goodman, the Scheme’s co-founder who died in 1995, enjoyed a highly successful career as a lawyer and political advisor but claimed that his proudest moment was his role in creating the Motability Scheme. Discussing the Scheme in his autobiography, Goodman described it as ‘the most successful achievement of my career and the most fortunate thought that ever came into my head’.

Lord Sterling also remains proud of his contribution to the Scheme, and in 2006 – during the celebration of the two millionth vehicle– explained why it continues to be such an effective way of assisting disabled people: ‘Family life revolves around the disabled person so if you make someone mobile you don’t help two million, it’s more like six to eight million’.

How it works

EPSON DSC picture

EPSON DSC picture

Motability Operations Ltd delivers the Motability Scheme under contract to Motability, a national charity set up with all party parliamentary support in 1977 and incorporated by Royal Charter. The Scheme is designed to help customers use their mobility allowance to find affordable vehicles that suit their disability needs.

When customers lease a vehicle through the Scheme, they choose to pay their mobility allowance to Motability Operations Ltd for three or, in some cases, five years. Any profits made are re-invested for the benefit of customers.

We spoke to Equal Lives, a charity led by people facing disabling barriers, who offer advice and support in a range of areas, including to those who are interested in signing up to the Motability Scheme. They told us more about how it all works:

‘The Scheme allows people who receive any of the following benefits the opportunity to exchange their allowance, or part of their allowance, in order to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair:

  1. The Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance
  1. The Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment
  1. War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
  1. Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)

As Equal Lives explain, ‘many people may have heard about the Scheme in terms of leasing a car, however many who don’t drive are unaware they could benefit from the lease of a scooter or powered wheelchair. As part of the lease agreement you’ll receive your insurance, breakdown cover and all servicing.’

Equal Lives are supportive of the Motability Scheme and told us that they actually employ people who use the Scheme. They note that ‘ultimately, the Scheme supports independence and provides individuals with an opportunity to access a mode of transport that will support them to live independently.’

The charity shared the experience of Jo from Norwich, who said ‘I love my car and thoroughly recommend considering the Motability Scheme to anyone who wants to remain independent. I am allowed two drivers registered to use the car under the Scheme and I have chosen to add a third for a one-off cost – this enables me to go out with my PA, family members and friends. It gives me confidence having a new vehicle under a 3-year lease, which means it is unlikely to break down or need repair, although if it does I am covered. The Scheme has also allowed me to have my chosen car adapted to include a hoist and hand controls.’

You can find out more about the Motability Scheme on motability.co.uk or via the Monarch Mobility website.

What does the future hold?

Disabled sign

Like other benefits, grants and allowances, the allowances used as a passport for the Scheme have come under some pressure in recent years due to the government’s aim of making savings across various strands of the overall welfare budget.

There has been a great deal of debate over whether and to what extent the Disability Living Allowance’s gradual replacement by the Personal Independence Payment reduces the number of people eligible to join the Motability Scheme.

Peter Lyne, founder of the Mobility and Support Information Service (MASIS) charity, told us that the Scheme is ‘being subjected to changes and reductions in certain areas of its operation’ because of the switch. This is supported by a recent article in the current affairs magazine Private Eye, which expressed doubt over the Department for Work and Pension’s claims that the Scheme is actually being expanded: ‘At the moment only those receiving higher rate mobility support of £57.40 a week can use the payment to lease a Motability vehicle…The question for [disability minister] Penny Mordaunt is how those on the lower mobility rate of £21.80, to whom she wants to extend the scheme, could finance running a vehicle’.

The Money Advice Service, which is an independent organisation but was set up by the government, does note on its website, however, that ‘if you joined the Motability scheme before January 2013 but no longer qualify under PIP, you might be eligible for a one-off £2,000 payment…to help you continue to meet your mobility needs’.

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Whether or not the reach of the Motability Scheme is currently expanding or contracting, however, one thing is for sure: since its introduction in the late 1970s, it has been an unqualified success. Millions of people have benefited through its provision of high quality cars, mobility scooters and other vehicles, and enjoy a level of independence which may not otherwise have been possible as a result.

So, if you think that joining the Motability Scheme would help you to truly get the most out of life, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the Motability eligibility checker today to find out if you could apply.

Image Credit: Steve Johnson

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