Motability changes will stop charity scheme abuse

Changes have been announced today to the charity Motability scheme with the aim of stopping fraudsters get free cars paid for by the government.

Motability operates the largest fleet in the UK – around 600,000 cars – and these are available to those who receive a Disability Allowance.
Vouchers are exchanged with dealers for cars helping many people who need to get on the road, but couldn't otherwise afford it, buy a car.

However the scheme has been open to abuse. There have been countless reports of expensive BMWs and other luxury cars being bought under Motability and not being used by the beneficiary, but a relative that lives hundreds of miles away.

Today new rules have been announced that will see that abuse addressed. The price of cars available under the scheme has been amended and now only those relatives who live within five miles of the claimant will be allowed to drive the cars.

In a statement, the chairman of Motability, Lord Sterling, said: "Despite meeting the mobility needs of disabled people for over 33 years, it is very important that we are not complacent.

"During 2011, we have reviewed a number of issues including the range of cars available on the scheme and the clarity of our policies on how the cars are used and by whom."

Advance payments on cars will now be limited to £2,000 and the maximum price limit for cars will be £25,000.

This change will rectify the current situation of more than 50 per cent of cars offered having advance payments over £2k, and will be implemented in December.

Another key change will be how the Motability car may be used and by whom. The scheme will now only accept nominated drivers who live within five miles of the customer in order to reduce the risk of the car being used for purposes other than by the disabled person.

"The principle of the scheme remains as it always has been – that cars must be used for the benefit of the disabled person," added Lord Sterling.

The age of nominated drivers will also change. Citing the cost of motor insurance rising, as of January Motability will no longer accept nominated drivers under the age of 21 on the scheme 'unless they reside with the disabled customer'.

The scheme will also now restrict drivers under the age of 25 in cars in "ABI Insurance Group 16 which also have a power output of 115bhp or less".

Ford and Vauxhall are the two biggest suppliers to the scheme, with Nissan third. Nisan GB managing director Jim Wright believes the new rules will see many manufacturers lowering list prices.

Writing on Nissan Insider, a website for the firm's dealers, he revealed he's of the view that due to the importance of Motability, car manufacturers will be forced to change list prices of certain models to allow them to be eligible for scheme users.

"These changes will mean a big shake up in the way the motor industry's biggest customer buys cars," said Wright.

"Motability is the only single customer which has the ability to change the way the entire industry sells cars. Following the changes my crystal ball sees a number of manufacturers re-speccing models to make entry-level models priced at £24,999.99."
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