Are thousands of parents of ADHD children receiving 'free' Motability cars?

10 October 2011

A number of our readers got in contact with us today concerning an article that appeared in the Mail On Sunday under the headline: "Parent of a child with ADHD? Have a free car under £1.5bn taxpayer-funded scheme."

Describing ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) as "naughty child syndrome", the Mail on Sunday wrote that:

"Mr Duncan Smith was enraged to be told initially by his department that there were no precise numbers on how many people with [ADHD] received free cars.

"However, after persistent enquiries by The Mail on Sunday, officials finally revealed that 3,200 such claimants qualified."

The 'free cars' to which the Mail on Sunday refers are provided under the Motability Car Scheme. This allows people who receive the Higher Mobility Component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to lease a specialised car from Motability. As Full Fact has already shown, to describe the scheme as providing 'free cars' is misleading, as it is paid for by claimants' own benefit entitlements, and many of the more expensive models of car available require a substantial investment on the part of the individual claiming.

But are there really 3,200 claimants with ADHD receiving these 'free cars'? Full Fact decided to investigate.


The Mail claims that it sourced its figures - after some 'persistence' - from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). We therefore followed suit and contacted them for some clarification.

They pointed us in the direction of this document, which breaks down those receiving the mobility component of the DLA by main disabling condition and mobility rate in May 2010.

There are 39,500 people receiving the mobility component of DLA for whom ADHD - referred to by the DWP as Hyperkinetic Syndrome (HS) - is their main disabling condition.

Of these however, only 100 are in the Higher Mobility Component of the DLA and therefore eligible for the Motability scheme.

This would seem to wholly refute the claim that there are 3,200 people with ADHD/HS who use the Motability Car Scheme. It should also be noted that these figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred, so the figure may be even lower.

Indeed the DWP itself warns that figures under 500 are "subject to a high degree of sampling error and should only be used as a guide."

So where is the 3,200 figure coming from?

In another part of the article the Mail on Sunday refers to all behavioural disorders as 'ADHD-related'.

The number of people whose main disabling factor is a behaviour disorder in the HMC category is 3,100. Added with the 100 people who have HS, this comes to 3,200, the same figure as the Mail on Sunday puts forward. It would therefore seem likely that this is the source of the Mail on Sunday claim.

To describe all behaviour disorders as 'ADHD-related' is highly misleading and in conflict with the information provided in 'The Disability Handbook'. While the handbook deals with the HS and other behaviour disorders in the same chapter, it also gives two different judgements on the effect of the these disabilities on mobility.

The value of the phrase 'ADHD-related' is therefore questionable.

Unfortunately neither the DWP or Motability keep records in the number of people using the Car Scheme broken down by primary disability.

However a Motability spokesperson did stress to Full Fact that only 30 per cent of those eligible for the scheme choose to use it. The actual number of people using the scheme for whom ADHD is their main disabling factor would therefore  be expected to be much lower than the 3,200 the Mail on Sunday suggests.

However these are not the only problems with the Mail's analysis. Elsewhere in the article it is stated that:

"According to advice on a Government website, [eligibility criteria] would include 'physical problems when walking out of doors' and 'needing someone with them when out of doors in unfamiliar places'."

However this appears to be a description of the Lower Mobility Component. The Motability Car Scheme is only open to those in the Higher Mobility Component of the DLA. According to the Direct Gov website a child must be unable or virtually unable to walk in order to qualify for this category.


The Mail on Sunday's claim that 3,200 people with ADHD have used the Motability Car Scheme is inaccurate.

The number eligible for higher rate DLA - and therefore Motability vehicles - is recoded as 100 by the DWP, some way short of the figure given by the Mail.

However even if we conflate behavioural disorders with ADHD, as the Mail appears to have done, it is likely that the number using the scheme would fail to top the 3,200 claimed, as only 30 per cent of those eligible end up using the scheme.

To cap it all off, the article also downplays the severity of the disability that is needed to qualify for the Motability Scheme. Full Fact will be contacting the Mail to put these points to them, and to press for a correction.

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