Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputies Martin Browne and Tully for raising this important issue for discussion today. The Ombudsman issued commentary on three transport support schemes for people living with disability. Those are now closed. I refer to the motor transport grant and mobility allowance schemes and the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme operated by the Revenue Commissioners. I can assure the House that the Government shares the concerns expressed by the Ombudsman regarding the transport challenges facing people with disabilities. As the Deputies have outlined, the Government decided to close the motorised transport grant and mobility allowance administrative grant schemes in 2013. That was on foot of the reports of the Ombudsman in 2011 and 2012 regarding the legal status of both schemes in the context of the Equal Status Acts. The Government also decided to continue payment of the monthly mobility allowance on an interim basis to the 4,700 people who were in receipt of the mobility allowance at the time that the scheme closed.
Under the current remit of the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, Deputy Rabbitte, work is ongoing on the policy proposals for the provision of transport supports for people with disabilities. The Minister for Health will then revert to the Government with proposals in due course.
I would like to make this House aware of other transport supports available to people with disabilities, which include the free travel scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners' disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme and measures funded under the Department of Rural and Community Development CLÁR programme to provide grants to voluntary organisations providing transport for people with significant mobility issues. I would also like to inform the House that there have been a number of recent developments which may impact on policy options for the provision of transport supports for people with disabilities. These include the ongoing progress by the Department of Transport in providing accessible public transport nationally and that Department's review of active travel and public transport policy, including accessible public transport. The Department of Social Protection has commissioned a cost of disability study that will inform policy direction for the provision of adequate supports to meet the needs of people with disabilities, including transport costs.
Under the national disability inclusion strategy, a working group was established to lead a review of all Government-funded transport and mobility schemes for people with disabilities. The Department of Finance is reviewing the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme. I can assure the House of the Government's continued commitment to finding a long-term equitable solution that meets the transport needs of those people with disabilities who face the most significant challenges.