Earlier this week, Full Fact investigated claims in the Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Express that a government-backed scheme which loans vehicles to those on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was being used to give "free BMWs" to friends and relatives of claimants.
While the Sunday Times had investigated some specific cases, many of the claims put forward in support of the article were exaggerated and needed significant contextualisation. In particular, the headline claim that taxpayers were subsidising "free BMWs" was contradicted by the fact that models by that manufacturer all required claimants to stump up several thousand pounds of their own cash.
However one claim we weren't able at the time to get to the bottom of was the suggestion in the Mail and the Express that 200,000 of the cars provided by the scheme were being used by "friends and family" of the disabled person, rather than the disabled person themselves.
However today Motability — the organisation responsible for administrating the scheme — got in touch to provide some more detail to the figure.
They told us: "It is correct that about a third of the vehicles in our fleet (about 200,000) are provided to people who do not drive themselves. This will include children who are too young to drive as well as people whose disability prevents them from driving.
"Even so, the car must be used for the benefit of the disabled person. The term "for the benefit of" is not defined in legislation and the Scheme therefore uses some judgement and common sense to interpret the requirement. The Scheme advises customers that the car can be used by any named driver, without the disabled person present to go shopping or for other routine activities from which the disabled person derives an identifiable benefit."
To be fair to the Express, it does note that "it is not clear how many of [the 200,000] are driving them for legitimate purposes."
However the Mail does seem to blur the distinction between "abuse" and 'use of the vehicle by a driver other than the disabled person'.
In reference to the 200,000 figure, for example, it says: "Despite the initiative aiming to provide a lifeline for the country's most disabled, it has been claimed that friends and family of the disabled recipient drive their Motability car every day."
However according to the Motability understanding of the figure, the 200,000 refers to people who cannot drive and yet are still eligible for the scheme. The figure therefore tells us nothing about the level of abuse by friends and family of the claimant.