Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group - Accessible Vehicles and Equipment (AVE) Scheme: response from ministers

Letter from Ben Macpherson, Minister for Social Security and Local Government, to Jim McCormick, Chair of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, on 1 March 2023.

Dr Jim McCormick
Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group
c/o Scottish Government

1 March 2023

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter dated 16 December 2022 and advice regarding the Accessible Vehicles and Equipment (AVE) Scheme. I know that you have also had constructive discussions with officials, and I am grateful to the group members in providing this proactive advice on the Scheme.

As you are aware, the AVE Scheme is intended to be adaptable and provide a flexible framework with the opportunity for multiple providers to take part. This is unique in the United Kingdom and represents a genuine commitment on our part to ensure that disabled people can access a service that meets their mobility needs.

In that context, I have sought to provide an overview of the considerations in relation to the key themes in your advice and have responded as far as possible to the issues raised.

Ensuring access to appropriate vehicles

The response below is in regard to Recommendation 1 as well as Key Concerns 1 to 3. We are committed to ensuring that the AVE Scheme will open to additional applicants at regular intervals. The most recent window opened on 16 January 2023 and will close 24

February 2023. We have made improvements to the AVE Scheme making it less prescriptive and enabling providers to service local areas. We hope this will encourage a wider range of providers to seek accreditation.

We will work with any potential applicant to help them understand our requirements, as well as providing advice on how to obtain accreditation. Only suppliers who meet the minimum service requirements of the Scheme will be accredited, ensuring disabled people experience the high standards of service, and range of choice that the AVE scheme is intended to provide.

The Scottish Government knows how vital access to vehicles and mobility equipment can be to disabled people and is dedicated to delivering the AVE Scheme in line with its core values of dignity, fairness, and respect. Accredited providers must deliver a service in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, that is accessible regardless of a person’s circumstances or income.

We’re committed to ensuring the AVE Scheme offers the same level of service and same high standards as the current Motability scheme. We will ensure all providers offer an inclusive and transparent service that meets disabled peoples’ needs in a number of ways, including:

  • ensuring the availability of a wide range of vehicles with no Advance Payment or by way of client contribution
  • ensuring a selection of wheelchair adapted vehicles (WAV) are available at either nil Advance Payment or by way of client contribution
  • providing client query responses in a timely and professional manner
  • providers must allow people to retain their vehicle for a period of 8 weeks following a Social Security Scotland benefit change that means they are no longer eligible for the AVE Scheme

We will continue to seek the views of people who use the Scheme to reflect on provider performance and ensure that it continues to meet their needs. This will include direct research with people who use the AVE Scheme as part of our on-going commitment to continuous improvement and learning. There will also be a dedicated evaluation of the Scheme undertaken as part of the Evaluation of Disability Benefits Strategy (published in October 2021). The evaluation will draw input from disabled people and stakeholders to understand the impact of the changes we have introduced as part of the AVE Scheme. My officials also meet quarterly with Motability to discuss delivery and minutes of these meetings can be found on gov.scot.

It is at a provider’s discretion whether new-to-scheme applicants with less than 12 months left before their next scheduled review can be accepted on to the Scheme. They will consider individual circumstances and may discuss with the Scottish Government how likely a person’s benefits are to change after review. The review system is designed to be light touch and as unobtrusive as possible. Motabilty ensures existing users of the scheme will be able to retain their current vehicle until the outcomes of their scheduled review is known.

Although waiting times for new vehicles for terminally ill people remain the same as other people receiving a qualifying benefit, Motability provide hire vehicles for these individuals to ensure they can remain mobile while they wait for their own vehicle to become available. The Scottish Government encourages Motability to do all they can to support terminally ill people and will do the same with any future providers.

Waiting times

We understand that the availability of new vehicles has been affected by a number of circumstances outside of the control of Motability and the Scottish Government. This includes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, exit from the European Union, conflict in Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis.

Tax and retaining vehicles during a re-determination or appeal

The response below is in regard to Recommendations 2 to 4, as well as Key Concerns 4 and 5.

The Scottish Government has worked closely with the UK Government to ensure that disabled people who benefit from the VAT zero-rating, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or road tax), and Insurance Premium Tax reliefs that are applicable to people accessing the Motability Scheme, can continue to benefit from them under the AVE Scheme. The tax exemptions are not specifically tied to the Motability Scheme and relate to how payments of specific benefits paid by DWP or the Scottish Government to providers of vehicles, are treated for tax purposes.

The UK Government’s position has consistently been that the tax treatment that applies to the mobility component of both DLA and PIP will apply to the mobility component of disability assistance on a like-for-like basis only, which means they will not permit similar tax concessions for short-term assistance (STA) as this is not available in other parts of the UK.

Although we have ensured that disabled people with a vehicle under the AVE Scheme will be able to retain their vehicle for 8 weeks if their qualifying entitlement changes, the UK Government will not permit these tax concessions to continue whilst STA is in payment. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government has pressed HM Treasury on extending the VAT zero-rating. The UK Government’s position is that making changes to VAT solely in respect of Scotland is a disproportionate approach.

We have considered several alternative approaches, but they are complex and may lead to unintended consequences. The potential cost and complexity of delivering a solution to this issue may outweigh the benefits of providing this assistance to a potentially very small group of people. Given the pressures on the Social Security Programme and Social Security Scotland, we are monitoring outcomes from decision-making, to understand whether people may see their entitlement to the mobility component reduced upon review. Our priority is to get decisions right first time so that people continue to receive the benefits that they are entitled to, reducing the need for people to go through re-determinations or appeals.

As set out in the Budget (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 debate on 21 February 2023 the financial situation facing the Scottish Government is, by far, the most challenging that we have faced since devolution. This requires difficult decisions about how to prioritise spending across all of our public services. Therefore, at present, the Scottish Government cannot commit to taking on the additional costs of extending the Scheme to those in receipt of STA– which would need to be met entirely from the largely fixed Scottish Budget.


I trust you find these responses helpful. My officials would be happy to further engage with the Group on any of the issues discussed. Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this contribution as we work to further developing a social security system that delivers with dignity, fairness and respect.

Best regards,

Ben Macpherson


T: 0300 244 4000
E: scottish.ministers@gov.scot

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