Thursday, 29 September 2016
Motorised Transport Grant
I thank the Senator for his contribution, as well as for his earlier congratulations on my new portfolio. I give a commitment to push strongly on many of the issues I have been advocating. The letter the Senator read from the carer is emotional and heartbreaking. I hope that in some of the responses this morning, we can progress this issue.
I thank the Senator for raising this matter and I welcome the opportunity to outline the current position in respect of it. As he will already be aware, conscious of the reports of the Ombudsman regarding the legal status of both the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant in the context of the Equal Status Acts, the Government decided to close both schemes. As a result, the motorised transport grant referred to by the Senator has not been in place for over three years. There are no plans for its restoration on the basis on which it was previously operated. That is the first important part. The next part is more important, however. The Government is aware of the continuing needs of people with a disability who rely on individual payments that support choice and independence. In this regard, monthly payments of up to €208.50 have continued to be made by the Health Service Executive to 4,700 people who were in receipt of the mobility allowance. The Government has decided that the detailed preparatory work required for a new transport support scheme and associated statutory provisions should be progressed by the Department of Health. I confirm that work is at an advanced stage on policy proposals for the drafting of primary legislation for the new scheme and anticipate that it will be brought to Government shortly. In that regard, a health (transport support) Bill is included in the Government's legislative programme.
The programme for a partnership Government acknowledges the ongoing drafting of primary legislation for a new transport support scheme and that both and the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, and I are committed to its progression as soon as possible. We are on the issue of a transport support scheme. The proposals will seek to ensure that there is a firm statutory basis to the scheme's operation, that there is transparency and equity in the eligibility criteria attaching to the scheme, that resources are targeted at those with the greatest needs and that the scheme is capable of being costed and is affordable when introduced and on an ongoing basis. The Department of Health is seeking a solution which will best meet the aim of supporting people with severe disabilities who require additional income to contribute towards the costs of their mobility needs while keeping within the available budget and satisfying all legal and equality concerns. The challenge is to develop a new scheme on a statutory basis within a limited budget, targeted towards those with the greatest need.
I assure the Senator that the matter will be brought to Government for consideration and decision as soon as possible. I look forward to what I am sure will be a valuable and constructive debate when the Bill comes before the House in due course.