There are concerns disabled people in rural Ireland are “effectively going to be marooned in their homes” amid confusion over access to State benefits for disabled drivers.
Under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme, people with a disability are entitled to free motor tax, a fuel grant, toll-free journeys and reductions in VRT and VAT when buying or adapting a car.
However, the Department of Finance has now suspended the issuing of the Primary Medical Certificates needed to access the scheme.
It comes after the criteria for accessing the certificates were challenged in the Supreme Court.
In a written reply to Independent TD Denis Naughten, the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the “complex legal and policy issues” arising from the Supreme Court case requires careful consideration.
He said no further Primary Medical Certificate assessments will be carried out “until a sound legal basis for such assessments is re-established.”
This evening, Deputy Naughten told Newstalk that it marks a serious setback for thousands of vulnerable people.
“This is a huge blow for any person with a disability or mobility issues that doesn’t have access to public transport,” he said.
“We are talking about large swathes of rural and regional Ireland now where effectively people with a disability are going to be left marooned.”
He noted that the Motorised Transport Grant and Mobility Allowance were both suspended seven years ago and many people may now find themselves with no means of transport.
He said the scheme must be restored as soon as possible.
“I think it is an imperative that it is made a priority,” he said.
“I am surprised and disappointed that the department officials were not prepared for a decision they got last June in the Supreme Court.
“They would have been aware of the risks and they should have acted upon them immediately after that rather than suspending the scheme.”
In his reply, Minister Donohoe pledged to “to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.”
He said there are currently around 170 people waiting to be issued a Primary Medical Certificate.