The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is an allowance paid to disabled people to help with extra costs. It's made up of a care component and/or a mobility component. A lower or higher rate of each is paid, depending on how much help you need. DLA also lets you access other services (such as Blue Badges, and the Motability scheme).
Since April 2013, DLA has been replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for new claimants aged 16 or over. If you already get DLA, you will be reassessed to determine the level of payment you will receive under PIP.
There are currently no plans to change DLA for people under 16. You will need to be assessed for PIP when you turn 16.
If you receive either the Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA, the War Pensioner's Mobility Supplement, or the Enhanced Rate Mobility Component of PIP, you're eligible for the Motability scheme. Your allowance goes towards the cost of a car, scooter or powered wheelchair of your choice.
Leasing through Motability
You use your mobility allowance to lease a new car from Motability for three years (five years for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle). Maintenance and servicing costs, insurance for two drivers (up to two additional drivers can be added for a fee) and RAC breakdown assistance are included. There is a mileage allowance of 20,000 miles per year (additional miles are charged at 5p per mile).
You can choose a model from all the main manufacturers. If you choose one that is more expensive than is covered by the mobility allowance, you make an advance payment. The amount paid varies, depending on the car and on which allowance you get. Motability offers over 450 cars which require no advance payment.
The Motability scheme will also cover, or contribute to, the cost of adaptations, such as hoists or swivel seats. Motability has a list of available adaptations, with costs attached. Many are free. Motability operates a Managed Adaptations Programme which can make the adaptation process both easier and cheaper. You can only make use of this programme when you are ordering your new car.
If you want to fit your own adaptations during your lease, or fit something not available through the programme, you will have to fund this yourself. Motability administers a number of funds (see Grants below) which may be able to help. Any adaptations must be supplied and fitted by a Motability Adaptations Partner.
Motability administers the government's Specialised Vehicle Funds as well as having their own charitable fund.
If you are considering the Motability scheme you can apply for a grant for things like adaptations, advance payments on more expensive vehicles, and driving lessons (for people under 25). You have to provide details of your circumstances, which will be checked. Motability can only help towards the least expensive solution that meets your needs. They'll assess your needs and make suitable recommendations.
Other sources of finance
Some charities give grants to individuals.
- Your local library should be able to help you find sources, such as the Round Table, Rotary or Lions Club and other local charities.
- Try your appropriate disability group, such as Scope, the MS Society or the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, who may know of sources of help.
Other organisations to consider are:
Charity Search provides a free service to help you find a grant-giving charity if you are aged 50 or over.
Turn2us provides a free service to help you find financial support in the form of welfare benefits, grants and other help tailored to your circumstances.
The Family Fund helps families with severely disabled children aged 17 and under, whose household income is less than £28,000 a year. They may be able to contribute towards the cost of adapting a car or with driving lessons. They do not usually help with the cost of buying a car.
- Social services - may be worth trying, especially if you don't get DLA or PIP or if you've already used your mobility component to lease or buy a vehicle.
- Access to Work - if you're in work or about to start work, you may be able to get help from the Access to Work scheme. They may cover the cost of adaptations to a vehicle if this is the only or most cost effective way for you to get to work. Cases are assessed on an individual basis. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus or visit www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview.
You can buy adapted vehicles and equipment second-hand. Anything you buy second-hand may have safety and reliability issues. For second-hand vehicles, the seller may have had an inspection carried out and/or offer a warranty. If not, you may want to think about carrying out your own inspection.
Some suppliers will fit second-hand hoists for you. Remember to allow for any fitting costs.
The following list adapted vehicles and equipment:
Disabled Living Foundation also has a list of sources of secondhand equipment:
You don't pay VAT on products designed and sold specifically for disabled people. This means all adaptations, installation, repair and maintenance are zero rated.
What kind of adaptations count?
- Those which make it possible for you to get in and out of the vehicle, such as a swivel seat.
- Those which make it possible for you to drive, such as hand controls for primary driving controls and infra-red systems for secondary controls. Note that standard extras such as automatic transmission will not be enough to qualify.
- Those which enable a wheelchair to be carried in the vehicle, such as a hoist. Trailers, roof or rear racks will not count as they are not vehicle adaptations.
Adaptations have to be permanent - which means that they have to be welded or bolted on.
Repair and maintenance to the vehicle is also zero rated. The supplier of the vehicle has to be satisfied that you qualify, and you'll have to sign a form declaring your disability.
Wheelchair and stretcher users
Additionally, if you use a wheelchair or stretcher you may not have to pay VAT on the price of the car or for its repair or maintenance. To qualify:
- You must be a wheelchair user or need to be carried in a stretcher. Temporary wheelchair users do not count and nor do scooter users.
- The car must have been designed, or substantially and permanently adapted, for the person who normally uses a wheelchair or stretcher; carry no more than 12 people; and be for domestic or personal use.
Vehicles owned and run by businesses do not qualify. However you can use a qualifying adapted vehicle for work if it is incidental to its main private use.
VAT relief applies only to new cars. If you are buying a car and intend to have controls fitted, it may be worth your while to consider buying a new car rather than a secondhand one as you won't have to pay VAT on the new car. For more information:
- You must buy and adapt the car at the same time - you can't get a VAT refund for adaptations made later.
- Alterations made to a car before it is registered have to have type approval. This means that it is only legal to fit these adaptations after registration. You have to register the car, have it adapted and then pay for it.
Talk to the firm who is adapting your car, they'll be able to make appropriate arrangements.
Last updated: December 2016