I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. I tabled this matter looking for the Minister of State with responsibility for disability to make a statement on the lack of access and supports for personalised transportation for disability drivers. This scheme was effectively abandoned in 2013, but it is a very worthwhile scheme that gave great access to people with disabilities. It is a big issue that we need to revisit.
The discontinuation of the scheme has been highlighted by many people. I received a phone call from a former Senator, John O'Mahony, about it last week. He was campaigning on it the past few years and said it needs to be raised again. I have a 34-year-old constituent with motor neurone disease. His wife is his full-time carer, he has two young kids and he is living in a rural part. He is abandoned and has no ability to go anywhere. The only scheme that is applicable to him to get transportation because of his disease is this scheme, which has been discontinued since 2013. When it was discontinued, it was stated that a new scheme, the transportation support scheme, would be introduced in its place. It is nine years later and that scheme still has not emerged. We have been waiting nine years for the Government to bring forward a scheme in order that people with disabilities will have the opportunity to have some kind of quality of life. At the moment, this man is effectively trapped in his own house with no ability to go anywhere, seven days a week. That is unfortunate and it is an issue for us as a society.
The Ombudsman made a critical and damning complaint in this regard in the past few weeks. He published a report on the issue, which stated that since 2016, 335 complaints have been received by the Ombudsman on this issue alone. In the recommendations he said that the lack of personalised transportation for people with disabilities is unfair and entirely unacceptable.
Those are strong words from the Ombudsman on this issue.
For the last nine years we have talked about this issue but there has been no movement by the Department of Health and we need movement now. I have talked to the people who are affected because of their circumstances and they have no hope that we will do something. If the Minister of State looked at the website tomorrow morning he will see that the scheme has been discontinued since 2013. That is a failing by the Government and the Department. An urgent scheme must be brought forward in the near future and in the next few months otherwise the people for whom I advocate, such as the 34-year-old man in Bandon who has motor neurone disease, will literally be prisoners in their homes. We need urgent action otherwise, unfortunately, we will have failed the most vulnerable in society and that would be not just a stain on these Houses but a stain on democracy itself.