Disabled people could soon find it almost impossible to use foreign personal assistants (PAs) to drive their Motability vehicles, because of strict new rules on driving licences.
Motability says that foreign drivers without a UK driving licence can now only be named on a customer’s insurance policy if they provide written proof – in English – of their driving history, including details of endorsements and any disqualifications in their home country.
But because this proof has to come from the organisation that issued their licence, most foreign PAs who want to drive a vehicle obtained through the disabled people’s car scheme will have to obtain a UK driving licence instead.
But they can only apply to do this – for a £50 fee – after they have lived in the UK for at least six months, while those from many non-European Union countries would have to pass a UK driving test.
Foreign drivers already named on insurance certificates will be able to continue to drive their employer’s vehicle until the Motability lease expires, but the new rules will apply if the disabled person recruits a new PA or once the lease expires and they decide to hire another Motability car.
Helen, a Motability customer since last October, only found out about the new rules by accident last week, even though Motability claims to have written last December to the “limited” number of customers who would be affected.
Helen’s support needs are met by 24/7 live-in PAs from an agency which recruits from the European Union, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. She said she was extremely concerned about the impact the new rules would have on her mobility and independence, and felt “let down” by Motability.
She said: “This has left me feeling so vulnerable – the polar opposite to what Motability and their ‘hassle-free’ driving is all about.”
Tracey Jannaway, director of Independent Living Alternatives (ILA), a disabled people’s organisation which provides personal assistance services, said that almost all ILA’s clients had at least one foreign PA driving for them.
Although she had not heard about the new rules until today (Thursday), when she was shown them by Disability News Service, she said they appeared to be “untenable”.
She said: “The majority of disabled people using PAs, at least in London, will have at least one PA who is not British.”
She said the new policy could leave many disabled people temporarily unable to use their Motability vehicles.
She added: “The majority of people who use ILA are dependent on a vehicle and cannot use public transport.
“It’s just not workable. It seems like another crazy example of Motability shifting the goalposts.”
Last year, Motability began fixing location tracking devices to the cars of customers who live in care homes or have an open insurance policy.
The previous year, it introduced a series of tighter rules, including restricting named drivers – such as PAs – to those living within five miles of the customer’s home.
Motability says in the letter that its new rules on foreign drivers are being introduced “to help protect the scheme from misuse and keep costs low for all our customers”.
The letter says: “From the 1 January 2013, we will only accept driving licences where we are able to obtain a driver’s history from the issuing agency; we are able to do this for all UK licences.
“Non-UK licences will only be accepted if the driver is able to organise official confirmation (in English) of their driving history from their issuing agency. In practice, it may be simpler and quicker for all non-UK licence holders to apply for a UK licence.”
A Motability spokeswoman said it had to “do all it can to protect the scheme from misuse and keep costs proportionately low for all customers”.
“Motability checks the driving history of UK licence holders with the DVLA. However, we are unable to verify the driving history of non-UK licence holders without written confirmation from the issuing agency.”
She added: “The policy has been in place for over two months and where in a few cases we are aware of concerns, we have looked at this on an individual basis and been able to find solutions in line with disability needs.”
Both Helen and Tracey Jannaway said Motability had not written to them about the new rules.
7 March 2013
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com