Tuesday, 1 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Again, I thank the Deputy for his comments. All Deputies have encountered this issue in their constituencies over many years. We are all familiar with it.
Given the Supreme Court decision, the temporary measure the Minister put in place to put the medical criteria in primary legislation was, to some extent, a swift move within a couple of months and the scheme got up and running, narrow as it was. At least the scheme was not suspended ad infinitumafter the Supreme Court decision. It was good the Minister moved as quickly as possible but everybody recognises that there is need for review of the scheme.
The Department is carrying out preliminary work, including the examination of the main issues which will frame the scope of the review. Officials have been engaging with other Departments in the context of other ongoing work in mobility supports. It is envisaged the review group will be established shortly and will include stakeholders from other Departments, the medical board of appeal and other representative groups.
One of the first questions I asked before coming in today was how many people are involved in the scheme. Last year, the scheme supported the purchase of 5,500 new vehicles. Many of the people availing of the scheme have done so for a long time and are getting new cars. We need to know how many people would like to be in the scheme but are not.
The best indication we have is that there are at least approximately 17,000 people in the scheme because that is how many fuel grant scheme payments were made in 2020. There are 17,000 in the system as we speak, based on the fuel grant applications, and they are the most serious issue. I will urge my Department to move as quickly as possible with other Departments to complete the review.