11 January 2022
By Tom Collins
Personal transport supports for people with disabilities are now virtually non-existent, according to West Cork based Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns
Deputy Cairns, a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters, said:
“Today it was reported that the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal resigned en masse. The five-member board cited the overly restrictive eligibility criteria of the scheme they oversaw, the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme, as the reason for their resignations.
“These resignations, which occurred in October, came at the same time that outgoing Ombudsman Peter Tyndall released a report criticising personal transport supports for people with disabilities. In his report – ‘Grounded: Unequal Access For People With Disabilities To Personal Transport Schemes’ – Mr Tyndell described the available State supports as “inadequate, unfair and inequitable”.
“Mr Tyndell highlighted that two previous transport schemes – the Motorised Transport Grant, a payment of up to €5,000 for those who needed to buy or adapt a car to retain employment, and the Mobility Allowance, a payment for those who could not walk or use public transport – had been abruptly closed in 2013.
“The schemes were closed after then Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly found the eligibility criteria were a breach of the Equal Status Acts. At the time, replacement schemes were promised but, eight years later, those alternate schemes have not materialised.
“While the Motorised Transport Grant and the Mobility Allowance are defunct, the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme is functionally defunct given its overly restrictive stringent qualifying criteria. This has been confirmed by the mass resignation of the Appeals Board, none of whom wanted to remain associated with the current scheme.
“It is a shocking indictment of the State’s treatment of disabled people that all three of these transport schemes are now effectively closed. These schemes had provided a vital lifeline for people with disabilities, allowing them to travel to work, go shopping and take part in normal community life.
“This failure to provide basic transport supports for people with disabilities does not just increase their isolation and anxiety. It also has very real impacts on their ability to work and move out of poverty.
“Irish people with disabilities have one of the lowest rates of employment in the entire EU – just over a third of working-age people with disabilities have a job. Shockingly, Ireland’s rate of employment amongst people with disabilities is just half the European average.
“Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe must now address the complete absence of transport supports that are available for disabled people. A long-promised review of the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme must take place as a matter of urgency. The Minister must also explain why no replacement schemes for the Motorised Transport Grant and the Mobility Allowance have materialised eight years after their closure.”