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Mass Resignation

Over 1,000 disabled people face appeal backlog for driver permit scheme

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said the situation has gone on too long and is not satisfactory.

MORE THAN 1,000 disabled people who were refused access to a scheme for claiming tax relief of up to €48,000 on specially adapted cars have been told they have no recourse to an appeal system to try and get the decisions reversed.

The backlog arose following the resignation of the entire Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal in November 2021. 

The Journal understands that the mass resignation was because the board disagreed with the overly-strict criteria being applied to applicants.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin told the Dáil last week that the situation had “gone on for far too long” and was “not satisfactory”.

The Tánaiste also noted that in addition to the appeals backlog the eligibility criteria for the existing scheme is overly narrow. 

The issue had been raised in the Dáil by Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan, who said the situation was “absolutely no way to treat disabled people”. 

She added that it was leading to isolation and frustration for disabled drivers and their families. 

What is the Disabled Drivers and Passengers’ Scheme? 

Under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers’ Scheme, people with a severe or permanent disability can access tax relief on vehicle registration tax and VAT on an adapted car whether they are the driver or the passenger.

Scheme users are also eligible for an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant.

The maximum amount of VRT and VAT relief available under the scheme depends on whether you are a disabled driver or passenger and how the car has been adapted.

The maximum amounts are:

  • Disabled drivers: €10,000
  • Disabled passengers: €16,000
  • Specifically adapted vehicles (vehicles that need significant adaptations) for drivers with severe disabilities: €16,000
  • Extensively adapted vehicles for drivers and passengers: €22,000 (These are vehicles that need adaptations that cost more than the open market selling price of the vehicle being adapted)
  • Wheelchair accessible adaptations: €48,000 for a disabled driver and €32,000 for a disabled passenger.

To qualify for the scheme, a person must hold a primary medical certificate issued by their local health office.

If a person is unsuccessful in applying for a primary medical certificate they can appeal the decision to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal (DDMBA). 

However, no appeals have been heard in almost two years since the entire board resigned in November 2021.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance, which shares responsibility for the scheme with the Department of Health, told the Journal that 1,006 appeals were  outstanding.

The spokesperson said: “Since the Board members resigned, the Department of Finance and Department of Health have made every effort to get the Board up and running.”

The department said five members were legislatively required for a functional board, but that the recruitment of these members had “proved to be challenging”.

Currently, the necessary five members have all been nominated by the Minister for Health, and Garda vetting is being undertaken for the most recently nominated candidate.

The four other candidates completed this process at the start of the year.

In February of this year the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) – the body that hosts the board of appeal – indicated their intention to withdraw their services with immediate effect, further complicating the issue.

However, the Department of Finance said this week that following talks, the hospital has “indicated a willingness to once again host the DDMBA”.

“The department is working actively with the NRH and the Department of Health to ensure that issues in relation to the processing of funding are addressed so that the consideration of appeals can be quickly resumed,” the department spokesperson said.

“It is important to note that requests for appeal hearings can still be sent to the DDMBA secretary based in the NRH,” the spokesperson added. 

The Government previously stated that it was hopeful that a new board would be in place by January 2023, but seven months later the board is still not back up and running.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin indicated that he would engage with the Minister for Finance to bring forward proposals to deal with the issue.

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