Thursday, 29 September 2016
Motorised Transport Grant
I thank the Cathaoirleach for choosing this debate and the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, for being present to hear it. Since I entered politics in the other House, the Minister of State has been a strong advocate for the disability sector. Therefore, I know I will get a good hearing. I appreciate that very much. I congratulate the Minister of State on his advocacy for the disabled over many years.
Let me outline the background to the motorised transport grant for those who might not understand. The payment was suspended in 2013. It was for people with disabilities who need to buy a car to retain employment or, in exceptional circumstances, people over 17 with severe disabilities who live in isolated locations and who cannot use public transport. I wish to concentrate on the latter.
I can best illustrate the point I wish to make by referring to extracts from a letter I received from one of my constituents, a woman who cares for her husband. I will refer to the important points and leave out names so no one will be identified. The woman states her husband contracted viral inflammation of the brain in 1995 and has considerable brain damage, epileptic and non-epileptic seizures, depression, word-finding problems, and problems with comprehension and memory. She states he had a heart attack in 1999 and has had 16 stents put in his heart. She has been caring for him 24-7, and he gets many seizures during the night. I am very much aware of the circumstances. The woman states her husband must be driven to attend appointments in Galway and Dublin. She has to get him out of the house every day for tea and take him to Sunday lunch as part of his therapy, as ordered by his consultants.
She contends she desperately needs to have a sturdy car because her husband is 19 stone, over six feet in height and has had seizures in the car requiring him to be stretchered out on numerous occasions. She has a 2009 car that really needs to be updated to a 2012 car. The Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland advised her she should change car every two years, but it is four years since she has changed hers. She called to the Castlebar clinic 18 months ago to ask for forms to apply for the motorised transport grant and was told it was stopped and to be replaced.She says she has been telephoning every few months but still there is no replacement scheme. The car is now beginning to give trouble and she is extremely worried that it is going to break down when she is out with her husband and that this could trigger a seizure. His seizures are caused by stress, worry and anxiety. She says she gets the VRT and VAT back on the car but even with the motorised transport grant, she still has to go to the credit union for a loan to pay for the shortfall on the car. The older her current car gets, the more it depreciates. This means she will have to get a bigger loan from the credit union. She desperately needs the motorised transport grant to be reinstated because if it is not, she does not know how she will manage. I know this case. I have been working with this family for the past number of years. It really is a lifeline and I would like to get a response from the Minister of State.