At its inception, the scheme offered a small number of brand-new cars, mainly Ford Fiestas and Minis, to the 125,000 disabled people in the UK who were in receipt of certain disability benefits. The Mobility Allowance had been introduced two years before to give disabled people more choice and the means to cover some of the additional costs they invariably faced when out and about.
The Mobility Allowance – worth £7 a week in 1978 – was introduced in part by the government of the day to replace invalid tricycles. Invalid tricycles, or Invacars, were single-seater vehicles that had been introduced by the NHS to help disabled people with their mobility a few decades earlier, but they came with many problems. They were renowned for easily tipping over in high winds and there were many reports of them catching fire. In addition, their crash safety record was woeful thanks to their flimsy build quality and unreliable brakes and steering.
With this extra money, it was hoped that disabled motorists and passengers would have much more choice, but it quickly became apparent that the Mobility Allowance on its own was simply not enough to cover all the costs associated with buying, running and maintaining a car.
The Motability charity and Motability Scheme were created after pressure from disability campaigners for a scheme through which disabled people could afford to drive (or be driven in) a quality, safe and reliable new car, with a maintenance package that meant most of the costs of driving were covered by the Mobility Allowance.
The collaboration between the government, the Motability charity, the UK motor industry and insurance companies has so far delivered over 4 million cars and WAVs to disabled drivers and carers who, without the Motability Scheme, may never have had the chance to experience the freedom that having your own vehicle brings.
Today, Motability customers have over 2000 different cars to choose from and a worry-free package over 3 years (5 years for WAV’s) that includes insurance for up to 2 drivers, servicing and maintenance, breakdown cover, tyre and windscreen repair and replacement cover, a mileage allowance of 60,000 miles and many adaptations (such as steering wheel controls) included.
Queen Elizabeth II has been the Chief Patron of Motability since its inception, and she was there to host the 40th anniversary of the charity at her home in Windsor two years ago.
Four decades on from its creation, Motability has grown to become one of the most-trusted and successful organisations in the UK, helping disabled people, their families and carers gain independence through the affordable use of a car. And with a satisfaction rating of 98% from its 600,000 customers, it looks like the scheme will continue to provide a vital service to disabled people in the UK for many years to come.