Oct 2011 11

It’s been revealed that parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can qualify for a free car under the £1.5 billion taxpayer-funded Motability scheme. Paid for by the mobility component of the £12 billion-a-year Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Motability is meant to help people with severe walking difficulties, and allows claimants to directly channel their mobility payments into a new car purchase.

So why are ADHD kids eligible? Creative interpretation of the eligibility requirements might mean they need ‘supervision most of the time from another person when walking out of doors in unfamiliar places’. Or perhaps they would ‘be at risk if they tried to walk’? Taxpayers will be outraged that a condition like ADHD, behavioural rather than physical, is being used to justify mobility grants.

But this story illustrates far broader problems with the administration of DLA.

The 3,000 cars that people with various behavioural conditions in the family are eligible for are a tiny percentage of the 575,000 being paid for under the Motability higher-rate mobility scheme. This is 200,000 more vehicles on the road than a decade ago. Why has this figure risen so quickly? There cannot be 200,000 more immobile disabled people than in 2001. The evidence points to a serious lack of oversight by the relevant authorities.

No medical assessment is required to qualify for mobility money. An assessment can be bypassed if the ‘decision-maker’ is happy with the application, and a medical exam ‘may be to check you are receiving the full amount of benefit you are entitled to’, rather than a comprehensive medical examination of the condition itself.

Given that diagnosis of ADHD has been criticised for often resting on parental evidence alone, there is substantial potential for abuse by parents looking to cash in on generous hand-outs.

There’s also no means-testing. The Motability website allows claimants to explore topping-up their £2,500 annual payments with their own cash, with tempting images of BMWs and Audis likely to provoke envy even in the most scrupulous. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidise new cars for wealthy families.

Most seriously, little effort is made to tackle abuse and fraud. Motability released a statement in June telling of the 800 claimants removed from the scheme in 2010/11. But its annual report mentions 7,144 allegations of fraud or abuse, including uninsured driving, unauthorised use, criminal activity, and drink driving. Just 2,139 of these were pursued, with only 829 resulting in punitive action – the figure quoted in the press statement. Given that an estimated 200,000 are regularly used by the disabled person’s friends or relatives, these figures are worrying small.

Motability relies on the public reporting misuse of these cars. A scheme costing £1.5 billion a year ought to have far more rigorous methods of preventing abuse than the odd tip-off from neighbours. Questions should also be raised about the necessary burden of proof – success rates in pursuing allegations are shockingly low. Given how easy it is to get a car, it seems incredibly difficult to take one away.

The Work and Pensions Secretary is right to take action on the ADHD car scheme, but the entire DLA mobility component should be re-examined. Investigating 3,000 cars out of 575,000 will do little to change the fundamental problems that allow uncontrolled spending of taxpayers’ money, with insufficient investigation of whether that spending is working or needed. The disabled must be supported, but the DWP must ensure the money goes to the right people and for the right reasons.

[Update: We have edited the post above to clarify that the figure of 3,000 is an estimation of the number eligible for the cars, rather than those who received them, and that this refers to a broader spectrum of behavioural disorders, in line with this article.  This strengthens the argument in the original post that this is a small part of the overall cost of the scheme.]


Tom is a graduate of the University of Oxford and was a researcher at the TPA from October 2011 to February 2012

  • Stuarthw

    I met a chap at the weekend who has a 40K E type jaguar and uses a motability car to drive on a daily basis ( his wife has MS) ……Poor taxpayer suffers again heh?

    • Dave

      This gentleman’s wife is probably entitled to a Motability vehicle, and he is fully entitled to drive it – but only if he is driving it on her behalf. He is not entitled to use it for his own purposes.

      If you know of these circumstances, you should formally report the matter. Have you done this?

  • Pingback: Taxpayers’ Alliance launch vicious, unfounded attack on disabled | Liberal Conspiracy

  • Anonymous

    Wow, you really are so full of crap, I am a tax payer, have been all my life. You most certainly do not speak for me and you most certainly do not enjoy an alliance with me, or many others for that matter.

    Tax payers alliance, [sic]. 

  • Martin

    Oh dear! You’ve used Richard Littlejohn’s article in the Daily Mail to act as the basis of the figures for your article haven’t you? Those figures have been entirely debunked elsewhere on the internet, but you didn’t think to check that Littlejohn’s figures were accurate before you re-churned his article. Sorry Taxpayers’ Alliance, but I’m a taxpayer and you don’t speak for me.

  • Andy Richards

    Even by your admittedly low standards this really is plumbing the depths.  For distortion and misrepresentation it would really take some beating.  And we wonder why hate crime against disabled people is on the rise.
    You must be so proud.

  • moje

    “Been revealed”. By The Daily Mail? I trust them as much as I do you. Stuarthw – you didn’t meet any such person, did you?

  • Boggins

    You should change your name to the Tax Avoiders Alliance. 

    Using widely discredited data to attack disabled people, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • Jasper

    This is completely misleading based on a Daily Mail article. 

  • Faye

    “There cannot be 200,000 more immobile disabled people than in 2001.”Hello? There are over 10 million disabled people in Britain including 5 million pensioners. 200,000 more disabled people in 10 years is very believable!

  • Anonymous

    “It’s been revealed that parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can qualify for a free car under the £1.5 billion taxpayer-funded Motability scheme.”

    No it hasn’t.

    “Creative interpretation of the eligibility requirements might mean they need ‘supervision most of the time from another person when walking out of doors in unfamiliar places’.”

    Not true. That would only entitle you to the lower rate of the Mobility Component which you cannot use for the Motability scheme.

    In fact you don’t need to be ‘creative’, you just have to have the beginnings of a clue as to what you are talking about. Regulation 12(6) of the DLA Regulations


    describe the type of severe behavioural problems which comprise one route to the higher rate of the Mobility Component. DWP figures reveal that only 100 claimants with ADHD have symptoms so severe as to qualify for the higher rate


    so these are the only ones with ADHD who would be able to take advantage of the Motability scheme. This is a tiny number. So your article is entirely untrue.

    “Given that an estimated 200,000 are regularly used by the disabled
    person’s friends or relatives, these figures are worrying small.”

    I suspect this figure is made up too but a large number of recipients probably aren’t able to drive a car, either because they are too young, they haven’t learnt or because of their disability.

    “…with tempting images of BMWs and Audis likely to provoke envy even in the most scrupulous.”

    Or, more likely, the small minded members of a right wing pressure group masquerading as a ‘grass roots’ organisation, whose board members avoid UK taxes themselves and refuses to reveal its funders.

    “Given how easy it is to get a car, it seems incredibly difficult to take one away.”

    Complete nonsense. It sometimes takes years for claimants to prove their entitlements to DLA, going through layer after layer of the appeals process. The vast majority of cases do have some form of other input, either medical, social workers or teachers etc who probably have a pretty good idea of a child’s behavioural problems.

    Means testing would die-entitle only a tiny number of claimants and the process would cost more than it saves. As would constantly setting up pogroms of inspectors endlessly checking whether people are really disabled and ‘deserving’ of their cars.

    This is a disgusting, shameful article. It is full of lies and deliberate ignorance of the facts, combined with constant innuendo trying to paint people with disabilities as fraudsters. As such it fully qualifies as hate speech.

  • David Warriet Edwards

    And a ‘story’ is all this is: the Daily Mail is not a credible source for anything,

    You have seriously injured yourselves with such a complete FAIL at basic fact checking, nothing you publish will ever be taken seriously by anyone except perhaps the more challenged Fail readers.

    By the way, where does your funding come from?

  • http://twitter.com/HappyMECFS Happy

    If success rates in pursuing allegations is low, isn’t it possible that there isn’t much abuse, and that perhaps the people who are receiving high rate mobility are entitled to it?

    As to the type of car received – that’s irrelevant. High Rate Mobility is the same amount for every qualified claimant. If the car is more expensive than the amount the claimant receives, then the claimant pays the extra – not the tax payer. How is this more abusive than someone who uses their mobility allowance (like I do) to pay for taxi service, deliveries, etc? If I did choose to use my mobility allowance in the Motability scheme, I would require a relative to drive it, because I have just voluntarily surrendered my driver’s license. Or would you rather someone who is medically unfit drive themselves around?

    As for the ridiculous claim that “No medical assessment is required to qualify for mobility money” that is completely false. The application itself is a medical assessment (which is not the same thing as a medical examination), and part of that involves the decision maker contacting the claimants GP.

    This is a shameful, degrading article full of bigotry against the disabled. You should be ashamed.

  • http://twitter.com/trabasack Beanbag Lap tray

    You really have no idea have you! You have taken some lies and disablist hate propagander added a few stereotypes and half truths and spun it into something even more despicable. Have you ever met a child with ADHD? Tried to claim DLA or helped someone with the forms or the process? No..didn’t think so. 

  • Anonymous

    “Update: We have edited the post above to clarify that the figure of
    3,000 is an estimation of the number eligible for the cars, rather than
    those who received them.”

    Still wrong. As I explained below you clearly have no understanding of the eligibility conditions for Motability or the DLA Mobility Component.

    The maximum possible number of ADHD sufferers who have a Motability car is 100 because that’s how many are eligible for the higher rate of the Mobility Component. Not all of those will use their entitlement for a car.

  • Simondalong

    You’ve shown yourselves up as a bunch of people who don’t bother to research even the barest facts before posting a load of inflammatory rhetoric. try finding out the real situation before you just lift tripe from the tabloids.

  • moje

    I see this tweet next to this article:

    “emmaboon Sad that it seems impossible for some people to enter into reasoned debate about benefits without accusing others of “attack on disabled”

    Can you respond to the comments here do you think, instead of complaining on Twitter that people dare to question you?

  • Info

    just nasty. pick on the disabled, while the ftse100 set up 1000s of subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid tax… 

  • Jwadsworth1

    I have never read such complete bollocks. The TPA claims to be a serious organisation but the quality of their research and “evidence” leaves a lot to be desired – Can’t understand why the media believe the crap they put out!

  • Anyuser

    Perhaps an investigation that one D.Cameron claimed DLA for a disabled relative would be more useful ! Means testing ?

  • Anonymous

    Despite some desperate edits your article is still fundamentally factually inaccurate and misleading. It is untrue to say that kids with ADHD qualify for a ‘free car’; only a tiny minority of the most severe sufferers who are eligible for the high rate of Mobility are able to trade this cash benefit for a Motability vehicle. Yes they have to havnd over money that they are legally entitled to to get a car, which is a funny way of describing ‘free’.

    Suddenly changing tack from ADHD sufferers to all behavioural problems is fundamentally dishonest and manipulative and simply exposes your argument as the illogical nonsense it is.

    DLA has been payable for sufferers of severe behavioural problems since it was introduced by the Tories in 1992. IDS might want to go and ask Lord Newton of Braintree if he wants an explanation why.

  • A Taxpayer

    Er what? happy for ADHD sufferers to have my tax, who funds you lot? you speak for no one but yourselves, pathetic, the lot of you. begone foul stench.

    • DH

      Hold up a mirror to yourself. Actually I think ADHD sufferers deserve you money more than you do.

      This article exposes the hatred and deceipt that underlies the TPA agenda. The TPA have no interest in value for money services, just like developing hatred and bile.

  • Monic1511

    Why have you used an article that includes lies as a basis of truth.  The criteria for receiveing a mobility car is that you are virtually unable to walk or meet this criteria ”

    No 6 you are entitled to highest rate care component and are
    severely mentally impaired with extremely disruptive and dangerous behavioural
    the criteria you outline is for low rate mobility and you cannot get a mobilty car if you only get low rate mobility.

    I have listened to Emma on Jeremy Vine’s show and she should have done more research before giving the nation her inaccurate views

    Also according to the DWP’s own figures DLA fraud is 0.5%

  • theGemmaDilemma

    Hmm… made up “facts” and statistics to attack provision for the disabled. This is petty, low and a bit sinister. I can’t imagine most tax payers would want to be represented by this kind of campaigning. As a tax payer I know I don’t.

  • Steve Collins

    More made up nonsense and disingenuous rubbish from your small right-wing cabal, representing the interests of the wealthy to the detriment of ordinary taxpayers.

    Can the TPA be prosecuted under the Trade Description Act?

  • Anonymous

    “”There cannot be 200,000 more immobile disabled people than in 2001.”"

    Given that many disabilities which impair mobility become worse over time, why on earth not?

  • Zhivila Agbah

    You TpA people are ridiculous. Hasn’t it sunk into your thick skulls that most of us on benefits have previously paid tax when we were working? I hope none of you ever become so sick or disabled that you can’t work, and are forced to live on the pittance begrudgingly handed out to us by the state. You who sneer at disabled people like me, are going to find out soon enough what living with a disability is like. 1 in 4 of you is going to suffer from a mental illness at some point in your lives. That is a statistical certainty. So get ready, because whichever one of you it is, you’re going to find yourself relying on the benefits you so desperately want to take away from us, and having to humiliate yourself in the process. 

    Good luck with that. 

  • Dave

    I am a parent of a 12 year old child who has profound and multiple learning disabilities. He is able to walk but, as a result of catastrophic brain damage, has no understanding whatsoever of the world around him. He survives because my partner and I do everything for him.

    He receives the highest possible rate of DLA – the care component at its highest rate and the mobility component at the higher rate.

    The care of people who have disabilities of this degree is both hugely life-changing and greatly expensive. I am grateful that the taxpayer is prepared to contribute towards the costs involved but I can assure those of you who are mercifully free of such concerns that DLA is not over-generous.

    As others have pointed out, access to the Motability scheme is restricted. I could access it but have so far chosen not to do so. If I did access it, the vehicle could never be driven by the disabled person. Sadly, he will never drive a vehicle for as long as he lives.

    I do not choose to rant about the article written by TPA, although I do observe that, if this is indeed sourced from Richard Littlejohn, it should be treated with extreme caution as he is a man for whom I have vanishingly little respect.

    I concede that there may be some people who manage to fraudulently obtain support via DLA. Where that occurs, I condemn it. Just as I condemn the numbers of apparently healthy people who deploy disabled parking permits in apparently inappropriate circumstances.

    But my experience of DLA is that it took a long, long time to get it and that it wasn’t a particularly easy path to tread. I’d be interested to see the evidence of fraud on the scale suggested.

    And in the meantime, thare are far, FAR worse abuses than this, involving people who are already hugely more wealthy than I shall ever be. Oddly enough, I don’t see much coverage of that on here.