Benefits and BMWs

The Sunday Times has decided to be outraged about people on benefits getting BMW cars. The headline they ran with was State hands out BMWs to ‘disabled’ (Paywall link) and it was plastered across the front page.

Unfortunately there are so many errors in the article that even the headline is plain wrong. To start with, the state does not “hand out” any cars to “the disabled”. Disabled people or the long term sick may get the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance to provide for their travel needs, and it can be spent as the recipient chooses but usually goes towards cars, wheelchairs, scooters, trains, buses, taxis and more. There is a charity scheme called Motability, and if a person wishes, they can pay the mobility component of their DLA to the Motability scheme in return for a car.

The state has not handed anyone a car, people have received the benefits to which they are entitled, and chosen to spend their money on a car.

The Motobility scheme works on the basis of leasing a new car out, and then selling it at the end of three years. (This works out cheaper than buying second hand cars and paying for their maintenance, and is more reliable and safer.) Motability has a set budget and any extra cost over the standard amount has to be covered by the user of the car – for example if the car has been driven more than the expected distance, there will be a mileage fee when the car is handed back. If someone wants a more expensive car to start with then they can pay the difference in cost so that Motability does not lose money. Some people pay a few hundred pounds extra to get a car more suitable for their medical condition, such as a car with a higher seat for people that struggle getting in and out of the car, or find low seating painful. These people often borrow at their own expense to pay the difference in cost. A BMW can be had through Motability for an extra fee in the same way that a slightly higher model Citroen could be. It’s just that there is a big difference in the size of that extra fee.

To get a BMW on Motability costs the end user at least £1,399 extra, and it is a fee, not a deposit.

It should be noted that DLA is not an out of work benefit, it is paid to everyone that has a qualifying disability, regardless of their work status or income. People that are still in work, especially if in a high powered job, or that have savings, might be able to afford the extra fee. Whether that is right or wrong is a different argument, but no fraud has been committed as DLA was intended to cover the extra cost of disability when working as much as when not.

The Sunday Times also talked about people using the car without the owner present. Some of the the points they made were true, but they missed that the car may be used on behalf of the sick or disabled person or for their benefit. That means that a carer could drive the car to go shopping to buy food for the owner of the car, completely within the rules. Of course they can’t use the owner’s blue badge or park in a disabled parking space, since they can walk across the car park.

Someone else can use a Motability car on behalf of the owner without them present.

The Sunday Times highlighted two cases of fraud in an attempt to back up their argument. One was someone whose health had improved but who had not informed the DWP and had gone back to work as a boxer, and the other was someone that was using his wife’s car to make deliveries as a courier. Benefit fraud levels are incredibly low, but with millions of people involved, even 0.5% means that a few people committing fraud can be found. Highlighting two cases without telling the reader how small a minority commit fraud is highly misleading. It should also be noted that while the boxer who didn’t inform anyone of his improvement was committing benefit fraud, the person driving his wife’s car was not. He was breaking the rules of the motability scheme and driving a car without paying the vehicle excise duty. (Which is waived for people receiving higher rate mobility component of DLA.) He had not defrauded the government out of any DLA benefit money.

The whole article has the same tone that we are becoming used to from mainstream newspapers. The implication that everyone on benefits is a scrounger. The article mentions that 123,000 people receive DLA for back pain, as though back pain is a simple thing or is somehow less worthy of support. (It covers scoliosis, degenerative spinal conditions, botched surgery resulting in nerve damage or paralysis.) Even the use of quotes around the word disabled in the headline is used to imply quite strongly that these people are not really disabled. I refuse to believe that the ‘journalists’ (see what I did there?) are that ignorant or don’t understand DLA and Motability. There is a clear agenda in this article to smear these people and create outrage. It is not acceptable and an apology must be given. I urge you to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about the factual innacuracies in their article, as I will be doing.

Cross posted at Where’s the Benefit?

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

14 thoughts on “Benefits and BMWs”

  1. hhmmmmm well i have not had my free car hand-out yet~outrageous.

    i shall be writing to the press complaints commission 🙂

  2. Typical Tory tactics – turn everyone but the priveleged bankers and toffs against each other and reap the rewards for themselves. It is commonly known as “divide and conquer” All minority groups must stick together and support one another through these dangerous times. I am legitimately disabled and I chose to spend an extra £999 deposit on my chosen Motability car – just a C4 citroen with an auto gearbox, as this would make driving so much easier for me. That deposit was borrowed as I didnt have it myself, and will be paid back just in time for my next motability car which I expect to need to stump up an extra deposit fee of around £1200 for. I cannot manage with a smaller car as they are not big enough for my frame, and neither are they comfortable enough for me to drive safely in. These people who are moaning about benefits all the time should try living on them theirselves – its no armchair ride believe me!! As I speak I have just had another £600 bill for heating oil, which I cannot pay, and will need to beg friends and family for help with yet again 🙁

  3. It is interesting to
    note that while the article claims to be an exposé of the use of Motability
    cars by non-disabled relatives of the car’s owner, the general slant of the
    headline and the content of the piece is clearly aimed at promoting resentment
    towards DLA recipients. It also repeats the lie that many people obtain DLA
    without a medical examination. Maybe if the applicant was limbless or totally
    paralysed or blind that might happen, but in most cases an examination is required.
    The rules state that DLA can be awarded without an examination if the
    information provided is satisfactory. This information would normally come from
    the claimant’s own G.P. or Consultant, who presumably ascertain the facts by –
    a medical examination.

  4. One of the problems is the ambiguity of the rules. My understanding is that the cars use must benefit the disabled person. This ‘could’ include using the vehicle to earn money to buy the disabled person food (courier deliveries?).

    As a Motability customer it is very difficult to interpret this correctly. My Motability Volvo (large upfront payment but need a big estate to get my chair in) is also the family car. My wife giving the kids a lift to Brownies benefits me because otherwise I would have to do it. Doesn’t it?

    To use this against us is a cheap trick and just another way to sway public opinion against a vulnerable minority.

    I googled ‘Times Motability’ and found an identical article from the Duram Times quoting a ‘Whitehall Source’. So where is this story really coming from?

    These are indeed dangerous times. I was always told that picking on someone vulnerable was bullying. The government are setting a very dangrous example.

      I think that’s the real point – the government may be actively briefing _against_ disable people.

      Since this is unlikely to happen by accident, it’s a fair bet that there are strategy meetings where they plan this kind of stuff, to get the general public really apathetic towards (and even approving of) cuts in benefits to the most needy.

      It’s either that, or certain papers choosing to do it themselves. That’s entirely possible, and probably true too, but having heard and read about what happened behind the scenes in the Labour governments of the 1970s, and the Conservative government of the 1980s, excuse me for sounding like a conspiracy theorist and possibly believing the worst of the government.

      Assuming this is true, I dread to think what they’ve got planned next.

      btw, Motability is an easy target: “The Motobility [sic] scheme works on the basis of leasing a new car out, and then selling it at the end of three years. (This works out cheaper than buying second hand cars and paying for their maintenance, and is more reliable and safer.) ” – this is true in the private sector, where large companies get huge discounts on new cars. However, it’s not true for private individuals, who don’t benefit from such discounts. For individuals, the most economic way to own a reliable car is to buy one 1-2 years old. So, whether new cars do work out cheaper than nearly new cars for Motability depends on how good a deal is struck with the manufacturers. If it’s like typical government procurement, the tax paying will be getting screwed. There may be better, fairer ways of spending the same amount of money – though of course that would be used as an excuse to spend less money.

  5. I’m not sure what sickens me more – the fact that newspapers are printing this tripe, or the fact that people seem to lap it up without question. It’s so bad I don’t even know where to start anymore. You refute one point and they’re straight back with another “fact”.

    Unfortunately it’s just another drop in the ocean of lies pushed by Murdoch et al… keep blaming the “scroungers” while we pump billions into banks and wars.

    Good at least to hear one more voice in opposition. Shame the right wing press has the means to shout their “case” louder.

  6. Excellent article. I have a friend with a son who has autism and she has a constant battle because of this ‘scrounger’ attitude. It adds to the already difficult time she has everyday and is actually abusive in my opinion. To tar everyone with the brush because of a minority is grossly unfair. 

  7. I have a BMW. I make not apology for this, I have worked all my life
    (with my disability) I am still working now. I need a car to enable me
    to live some sembelance of a normal life. Yes I could make do with a
    Ford or a Vauxhall, indeed I have had them in the past. I pay a
    handsome premium to have the use of a BMW, “The State is NOT giving me

    As I say I have worked and saved for many years, so now I feel entitled to something a little different.

    It;’s about time that the Blue Badge was only made
    available to people who really need one, and a crackdown is needed on
    the (thousands) people who abuse the system.

  8. often people do not look disabled, I’ve noticed that they often go to great lengths not to;  in order to “blend in” I know myself three who wear trouser/jeans/long skirts purposely to hide their problem legs/ feet and some-one else who won’t go out in public wearing the body cast advised by speacialists. Attitudes are anti disablement, it is an impairment that the public seem unable to find acceptable, and so want to ignore/hide. what a shame on us in general

  9. I’d like to add that thanks to such shoddy reporting on this alot of people seem to think I can just get a car whenever I fancy, and it has caused a problem with my staff as he assumed to be able to piggyback on the ‘perk’ and get a car that way, then he ‘finds out’ (ie had done NO research just read newspapers) that its my money actually that goes to it and I cant just get a ‘free’ car for him to drive me (and himself) around and now I have had to reduce his hours and look at replacing him because I need someone who can drive and has a vehicle (as i told him when i hired him, but of course the mail and the sun had ‘educated ‘ him first and he thought he could blag a car.. now I feel used, let down, lied too, misrepresented and ontop of it all STILL housebound after 3 years trying to rectify the situation. They outta be f**king ashamed of themselves as if our lives arnt shitty enough.

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