Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the Minister for Finance for ignoring repeated warnings from the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal that citizens with severe and permanent disabilities were being unfairly excluded from a financial support scheme that he is responsible for.
Deputy Doherty described the revelations as disgraceful, and pointing to a clear disregard for the interests of citizens with disabilities at the heart of the Department of Finance.
Speaking today, the Donegal TD said:
“The Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme provides financial support for the purchase and use of adapted vehicles by drivers and passengers with a disability.
“For years public representatives have been contacted by citizens with disabilities and their families who have been denied access to this scheme despite having permanent and severe disabilities.
“Citizens with chronic illnesses, severe mobility issues and other conditions who have been grounded without access to personal transport – unable to work, unable to visit friends and family.
“In October the entire Medical Board of Appeal, which assesses appeals under the scheme, resigned.
“Documents released to me under Freedom of Information show that the Board of Appeal had repeatedly raised serious concerns with the Minister for Finance regarding the criteria for access to the Scheme.
“They warned that they were discriminatory, that they needed to change, that many people with severe and permanent disability were being excluded from the scheme and discriminated against because of them.
“The Minister for Finance took no action despite repeated warnings over many years that citizens with disabilities were being unfairly denied financial support – with serious consequences for their quality of life and financial well-being.
“In many instances he failed to even acknowledge or reply to these concerns.
“This ultimately led to the resignation of all of the doctors who sat on the Medical Board of Appeal.
“The contents of these documents are truly shocking.
“In 2021 alone more than 1,242 people were denied a Primary Medical Certificate.
“Since 2017, when Paschal Donohoe became Minister, over 1,000 people have had their appeals denied – despite many having permanent and severe disabilities.
“As the Chair made clear in her resignation letter, this was simply not a priority for the Minister despite repeated warnings.
“The Minister failed in his duties and responsibilities.”