If you’re physically disabled, one of the most challenging things can be trying to get around, and having to rely on others can be frustrating. Therefore, the chance of actually being able to get a driving licence and gain some independence might seem like a dream. Unfortunately, learning to drive is not cheap, and once the costs of paperwork, exams and the lessons themselves are accounted for, you might have spent hundreds of pounds before you’ve even passed. However, if you’re disabled, there is some help at hand.
Free Driving Lessons
You might not believe it, but depending on your disability, you may qualify for free driving lessons. Though you still have to pay for the theory and driving exams, you could get up to 40 hours of free practice time with a qualified instructor. With the average lesson costing £24 per hour, you stand to save a staggering £960. To qualify for free driving lessons with motability the following must be true:
- You are already a customer of the Motability Scheme or have a pending agreement with a confirmed delivery date of a new vehicle no more than four months from the date of the application for driving lessons; and
- You receive one of the following: a means-tested benefit, such as Income Support, Income-related Jobseekers Allowance, Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit), Housing Benefit, Income-related ESA or Working Tax Credit; or
- You are in full-time education or training (aged up to 25 years of age) and you or your parents/guardians receive one of the means-tested benefits listed above. Full-time education is defined as education undertaken in pursuit of a course, where a substantial period of each week is spent receiving tuition, engaging in practical work, receiving supervised study or taking examinations. Training is defined as an unpaid Apprenticeship.
Obtaining a Provisional Licence
One of the most challenging aspects of learning to drive for disabled people is obtaining a provisional licence. Without this you will be unable to register for lessons, and cannot legally get behind the wheel of a vehicle on the road. As a result, it’s extremely important you sort this out as quickly as possible so your driving career isn’t held up.
Initially, you need to contact the Drivers Medical Group to see whether your medical condition will affect your driving. This division of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will be able to tell you which medical forms to fill out ahead of applying for a licence. At the same time, it’s a good idea to get a provisional licence application form from the post office and download the appropriate medical forms. You should be prepared to wait because these forms will require doctor and consultant contacts, in addition to medical information before they can be submitted, lengthening the time the process will take.
Applying for a Driving Lesson Grant
Once you’ve received your provisional licence, you’re all set to get driving. For help with free lessons, the next step is to contact the Motability Scheme. To have any chance of success, there are several qualifying requirements. For example, you need to be receiving a means-tested benefit such as Working Tax Credit or Income Support. Alternatively, you must already be a Motability Scheme customer or have begun an agreement which has a confirmation date no more than four months into the future. Finally, if you’re under 25 and in full-time training and education, and you or your parents receive a means-tested benefit, you can also apply.
Receiving your Free Lessons
If your application is successful, your details will be given to a national driving school that will then get in contact about arranging an introductory lesson. Instructors will discuss your requirements for driving before starting with a two hour trial to determine your driving capabilities. If everything is successful, you will then be offered a further 12 hours of lessons.
To progress further, it is mandatory to pass the DVLA’s theory test. This is relatively easy to book online, but if you need extra time or other assistance, such as a voiceover, during the test, it’s best to call on 0300 200 1122 to discuss your needs. You will have to pay for the theory test yourself, but once passed, you can then book a further 26 hours of free driving lessons. The entire course needs to be completed within a year.
Free Driving Lessons for Carers
If you’re a registered carer of someone disabled and cannot drive, there is also financial help available. Though you may not be able to get all of your lessons for free, you could get significant aid to make the process more affordable.
Initially, it’s best to contact your local Social Services and request a Carer’s Assessment. The process will determine the extent to which a carer needs to drive and, as a result, may offer funding via the disabled individual’s Direct Payments.
Use the Motability Scheme for Vehicle Access
As long as you’re successful in your driving and pass the DVLA’s practical test, the Motability Scheme can also offer support in paying for a vehicle. Cars are normally provided to you via a lease, and the hire costs are paid through any qualifying benefits. In most circumstances, all benefit is paid directly to the Motability scheme, though small vehicles are not as expensive.
Overall, if you’re disabled or are a carer you could access grants for driving lessons. This can reduce the cost of learning to drive and, assuming you pass, could offer more independence than ever before.