Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Primary Medical Certificates

7:55 pm

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

This matter has been raised a few times, although I am not sure if it was raised very recently in the Oireachtas. The primary medical certificate is primarily about adapted vehicles. That is the most common reason people require it. It is relevant where people have a disability or suffered a long-term or permanent injury that means they required a specially adapted vehicle. It is crucial to people's independence, dignity and quality of life.

The Minister of State knows there have been developments in this area. A Supreme Court decision in June 2020 caused the Department of Finance to suspend planned assessments and appeals until further notice, pending legal advice. That pause lasted until January this year, if I recall correctly. Covid-19 also had an impact. The combination of these two events meant both the initial hearing and appeals processes saw very significant delays. I know there have been efforts to clear the backlog but I have heard from people on the ground and those working in the system that there is a backlog of initial applications but the backlog for appeals is very lengthy. I know one case from the west of Ireland was told in recent months that a cancelled appeal would not be rescheduled until some time in 2022. The waiting list for applications is several months in Cork and appeals are between seven and eight months.

People with disabilities should not have to wait a year or two to know whether they can afford to have their card adapted or to purchase an already adapted car. That is not right and this has a major impact on their quality of life. It can hold back their independence. In many cases the disability could emerge quickly, such as in the case of injury or rapidly progressing illness. All of a sudden, a previously completely independent person has to wait for this process and there is nothing to be done to speed it up. All the actions such people can take they would have discharged and the process has been taken from their hands.

What is the latest information? I have an anecdotal sense of it from on the ground in Cork and cases I have heard about in other parts of the country. I have also heard from people working in the service. Will the Minister give a picture of where we are nationally and the progress in clearing the backlog not only in applications but also in appeals? What is the plan to ensure that big backlog of appeals in particular can be cleared so these people can get their primary medical certificate, get on the road and get to shops or visit relatives? That is what this is about. We are talking about their independence, dignity and ability to get on with their lives.


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