Written answers

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Department of Finance

Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme

Richard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)
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54. To ask the Minister for Finance the position regarding upgrades to vehicles for persons already in receipt of a primary medical certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37201/20]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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The Disabled Driver and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides for relief on VAT and VRT, based on how much the car has been adapted and whether the beneficiary is a driver or passenger, up to a maximum of 

- Disabled drivers: €10,000

- Disabled passengers: €16,000

- Specifically adapted vehicles for drivers with severe disabilities: €16,000 (Specifically adapted vehicles are vehicles that need significant adaptations)

- Extensively adapted vehicles for drivers and passengers: €22,000 (Extensively adapted vehicles are vehicles that need adaptations that cost more than the open market selling price of the vehicle being adapted)

The scheme also provides for  an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

A Supreme Court decision of 18th June found in favour of two appellants against the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC. The judgement found that the medical criteria set out in the Regulations did not align with the regulation making mandate given in the primary legislation to further define criteria for ‘severely and permanently disabled’ persons.

On foot of the legal advice received, it became clear that it was appropriate to revisit the six medical criteria set out in Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument 353 of 1994 for these assessments. In such circumstances, PMC assessments were discontinued until a revised basis for such assessments could be established. The medical officers who are responsible for conducting PMC assessments need to have assurance that the decisions they make are based on clear criteria set out in legislation. While Regulation 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 353 of 1994 was not deemed to be invalid, nevertheless it was found to be inconsistent with the mandate provided in Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989.

In order to allow for the PMC assessments to recommence I am bringing forward an amendment to the Finance Bill to provide for the existing medical criteria in primary legislation. When the Bill is enacted, this will allow for assessments to recommence in circumstances where the legal basis for such assessments is clarified.

I consider this to be an interim solution only. While I am very aware of the importance of this scheme to those who benefit from it, I am also aware of the disquiet expressed by members of this house and others in respect of the difficulties around access to the scheme. With this in mind I have asked my officials to undertake a comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities, and on foot of that review to bring forward proposals for consideration.

While it was regrettable that it was necessary to temporarily close the scheme to new applicants, I would like to clarify that the Scheme itself is still operating for existing Primary Medical Cert holders. All persons or charitable organisations that can currently access the Scheme will continue to be able to do so and make claims for tax reliefs and the fuel grant in the normal manner. 

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