Sinn Féin TDs Matt Carthy and Imelda Munster have challenged Department of Finance officials on the deficiencies within the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme at the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.
Speaking afterwards Deputy Carthy said that the lack of urgency in bringing ‘much needed reform of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme’ was evident in the responses from the Department of Finance.
In order to qualify for the scheme a person must first obtain a Primary Medical Cert. However, all members of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal resigned last October, the Ombudsman has determined that the eligibility criteria is ‘excessively restrictive’.
Teachta Carthy said:
“This is an absolutely critical scheme for those with various mobility issues, and completely necessary if we are to provide disabled people their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to live fully independent lives.
“However, for many years this scheme has been identified as being overly prescriptive.
“Indeed, in June of 2020 a family won a Supreme Court case against the government in this regard.
“However, rather than setting about making fundamental reforms to the scheme, the government instead introduced what amounted to a technical amendment to the legislation to re-enforce those excessively restrictive criteria.
“While the government committed to a review mid-last year, the resignation of the entire board in October points to a lack of satisfaction in how things developed as well as a governmental approach to this scheme more concerned with the cost-of-buttons than standard-of-living.
“The lack of urgency on this issue was evident again at the PAC hearing with Department officials. Clearly, Ministerial intervention is required.”
Teachta Munster said:
“The truth of the matter is that the flaws and issues with this scheme have been known for years and clearly surmised by the Ombudsman in a report last November.
“The exact issue at hand here is that those restrictive criteria that the board of appeals must adhere to are set down in Statutory Instrument, and result in a success rate of as low as 5%.
“A review was promised by the department last year prior to the resignation of the board, but now officials seem content with the stance that the matter has been kicked over to Minister of State Rabbitte in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
“I simply do not accept the position taken by officials that the department is effectively managing this situation.
“Effective management would have not been forcing a family to take a Supreme Court case. It would have been responding to losing that case with appropriate reform. It would have been rapidly responding to the resignation of the entire board – not passing the buck to another department four months later.
“In the coming weeks the Public Accounts Committee will be seeking further information from the Department on how this scheme has been operated to-date and the work they have done over the last nearly two years since that Supreme Court judgement.
“We will be following up in the coming weeks to ensure that any reforms are fit for purpose, properly recognising the role this scheme can play in ensuring disabled people have the ability to travel as a right.”