People with a disability marooned as 3rd mobility scheme ‘suspended’ – Naughten

In Disability, Local Issues, News, Posts by Topic by Denis Naughten

Denis Naughten TD has been informed by the Minister for Finance that the issuing of Primary Medical Certificates for disabled drivers and passengers has been suspended following a court decision last June.

I’ve had the opportunity to raise this with the Tanaiste in the Dáil and here is what he said: https://youtu.be/LdKc8sCrSBE

 

“When a disabled person eventually secures a Primary Medical Certificate after a tortuous process it allows them a reduction in VRT and VAT when purchasing or adapting a vehicle. It also exempts them from motor tax and tolls and offers a fuel grant,” said Deputy Naughten.

 

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

 

“It is just not good enough that we now have the three support schemes allowing people with a disability to live independently and get around, suspended indefinitely.

 

“Furthermore, it is just another blow to parents of children with a disability who have had their therapy supports withdrawn because staff are making contact tracing phone calls and now it seems that these very parents are being denied the supports needed to have their cars adapted to cater for wheelchairs.

 

“As Chairperson of the Dáil Committee on Rural Development I believe that these decisions effectively mean that people with a disability are marooned in their home if they don’t have access to public transport.

 

“This issue of transport in rural areas is a topic that the Oireachtas Committee intends to explore but it is now becoming a far greater priority for people with serious mobility issues,” concluded Denis Naughten.

 

 

Explanation of schemes and Dáil reply from the Minister for Finance are attached

 

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme provides a range of tax reliefs linked to the purchase and use of specially constructed or adapted vehicles by drivers and passengers with a disability. The rules of the scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 (SI 353/1994) as amended. Under the scheme, you can claim:

  • Remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax (VRT)
  • Repayment of value-added tax (VAT) on the purchase of a vehicle
  • Repayment of VAT on the cost of adapting a vehicle

If you qualify for the scheme, you may get some additional exemptions and benefits including:

  • An exemption from motor tax on the vehicle, see ‘How to apply’ below.
  • An exemption from toll road fees, see ‘How to apply’ below.
  • The fuel grant, see ‘Rates’ below.

To qualify for tax relief under the scheme, the person with a disability must have a valid Primary Medical Certificate. ISSUING OF CERTS SUSPENDED in 2020

 

 

The Motorised Transport Grant is a means-tested Health Service Executive (HSE) payment for people with disabilities who need to buy a car in order to retain employment. This payment is also for people with disabilities who need to have a car or other vehicle adapted in order to enable them to drive and, as a result, earn a living. SUSPENDED in 2013

 

Mobility Allowance was a means tested monthly payment payable by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to people who are aged 16 and over and under age 66, and who have a disability and are unable to walk or use public transport and who would benefit from a change in surroundings; (for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey). SUSPENDED in 2013

 

 Dáil Reply:

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 06/10/2020
Asked by: Marc MacSharry T.D., Denis Naughten T.D., James Lawless T.D., Louise O’Reilly T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

 

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 6 October, 2020.

* To ask the Minister for Finance the number of appeals in relation to refusals of applications for a primary medical certificate that are now on hold as a result of the Supreme Court ruling of 18 June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Denis Naughten T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 6 October, 2020.

* To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to review refusals of primary medical certificate applications as a result of the Supreme Court ruling of 18 June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Denis Naughten T.D.

 

* To ask the Minister for Finance when changes will be made to Regulation 3 of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 in view of the Supreme Court Judgment of 18 June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Denis Naughten T.D.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 6 October, 2020.

REPLY

 

The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain organisations. In order to qualify for relief an organisation must be entered in the register of charitable organisations under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2009, be engaged in the transport of disabled persons and whose purpose is to provide services to persons with disabilities.

 

In order to qualify for relief the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC) issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate (BMC) issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other criteria apply in relation to the vehicle and its use, including that the vehicle must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

 

The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the following medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC:

  • be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;
  • be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;
  • be without both hands or without both arms;
  • be without one or both legs;
  • be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;
  • have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

A Supreme Court decision of 18th June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal’s refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgement found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.

In the first instance, I acknowledge that the persons who successfully challenged a decision by the Medical Board of Appeal to refuse them a PMC are, on the basis of that Supreme Court decision, entitled to seek access to the Scheme. The Supreme Court decision raised complex issues, including the manner in which the persons concerned can access the Scheme, given that the Regulation which set out the medical eligibility criteria was not found to be invalid and given that the persons concerned were not assessed for a PMC on the single criterion of being permanently and severely disabled.

However, in the particular circumstances, I consider that both persons merit access to this Scheme and I instructed my officials to liaise with the Medical Board of Appeal to request that Board Medical Certificates are issued to them in light of the Supreme Court decision. In this regard I understand that the Board are amenable to this course of action and that Board Medical Certificates will be issued to the persons concerned shortly.

More generally, the Deputies will appreciate that the complex legal and policy issues raised by the Supreme Court decision will require careful consideration. In parallel to that consideration there is a need to examine how best the Scheme can target resources to those persons who most need them. My officials are currently examining the judgement, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office, and will bring forward any policy and/or legislative proposals, as necessary, for my consideration in due course.

In the interim, on foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In such circumstances, it is not proposed to continue with PMC assessments until a revised basis for such assessments is established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.

My officials were in contact with the Medical Board of Appeal and with officials in the Department of Health and will continue to liaise with them, as required, going forward. I have also written to the Minister for Health to request that there are no further PMC assessments until a sound legal basis for such assessments is re-established.

While it is regrettable that PMC assessments are currently not taking place and I acknowledge that this will result in a growing waiting list, I anticipate that the work that is currently ongoing in relation to this matter will provide a proper basis for me to make a decision on the best pathway forward and to address the current legal uncertainty surrounding the Scheme. I can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.

Finally, I can confirm that there are currently about 170 cases waiting for review by the Medical Board of Appeal.