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disabled drivers

Government slammed by opposition TDs as board of disabled drivers group resigns

Pearse Doherty and Denis Naughten are among the TDs who have hit out at the government’s handling of the matter.

THE ENTIRE BOARD of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal has resigned over concerns that a large number of drivers applying for tax reliefs were being turned down.

The Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme provides relief on VRT and VAT on vehicles for disabled drivers or passengers.

The board oversees the appeals process for those who don’t qualify for the scheme, and has voiced issue with the qualifications system being too stringent.

On average, less than 5% of appeals for Primary Medical Certs, which are necessary to apply for the scheme, are successful.

Pearse Doherty TD, Sinn Fein’s Spokesperson on Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform said that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe didn’t listen to urges to improve the scheme.

In a statement released today Deputy Doherty said: “For years Sinn Féin and other representatives have raised problems with the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme with the Minister for Finance.”

“These concerns included the rejection of applicants for the primary medical certificate, delays in decision making and qualifying criteria that excluded those with disabilities.”

In June of 2020 the families of two children with disabilities won a Supreme Court appeal against the board for refusing them access to the scheme.

The scheme was then temporarily suspended before taking assessments again in January of 2021.

Doherty continued: “It is clear that the Minister for Finance failed to respond to repeated criticisms of the scheme and its criteria by the Board – criteria that exclude so many disabled people from accessing personal transport.”

He also called on Minister Donohoe to release minutes of meetings he held in which the Board addressed their concerns to him, and called his handling of the situation  “totally unacceptable.”

Following the Board’s meeting with the minister in March 2021 they continued to state that insufficient progress was being made to make the scheme more inclusive.

Dr Cara McDonagh, the Board’s Chairperson, wrote to the minister last October to tender her resignation.

The five other members of the board also resigned at this time but their resignations have only now become publicly known.

Independent TD Denis Naughten also criticised the government’s handling of the matter saying  the vast majority of people with a disability “are now marooned in their own homes.”

“For many disabled people who have no access to public transport, this was the only assistance available to them to get around as the Motorised Transport Grant and Mobility Allowance were both suspended nine years ago.”

“It is just not good enough that we now have three support schemes that allow people with a disability to live independently and get around, effectively suspended, for the majority of people with a disability who cannot access alternative transport.”

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns, a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters, was also critical of the government’s handling of the matter and called it  “a shocking indictment of the State’s treatment of disabled people”.

As of the end of November, it is understood there were 364 cases awaiting an appeal date, with 20 more last month.

An investigation by our colleagues at Noteworthy found that many people have resorted to using the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise money for the purchase of accessible cars and vans for disabled adults and children.

Goals range from between €20,000 and €60,000. 

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