A special review group, which will be independently chaired, has been established to seek an alternative method to provide for the needs of people in a manner that does not run counter to the Equal Status Acts. Following the initial phase of the group's work, which will concentrate on issues around Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant, a key concentration of the group will be to look at opportunities for the enhancement of the transport options provided to the relevant persons in need. As part of the review, the Health Service Executive (HSE) will examine the circumstances of all those currently benefiting from the schemes to ensure the identified solutions will encompass their priority mobility needs. In addition, the Minister for Health has instructed the HSE to contact each individual in receipt of the payments to notify them of this decision.
It is important to note that, although the Government's decision ends both schemes to new applicants with immediate effect, the payment of mobility allowance to those currently in receipt of it, will continue for another four months. It is also important to note that the decision is in no way intended to save costs and the funding involved in the two schemes (€10.6 million) remains committed to meeting the priority transport needs of people with a disability.
In advance of the establishment of the Project Group, Department of Health officials met with representatives of the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the Irish Wheelchair Association at my request. In addition, membership of the Project Group, which is independently chaired, is drawn from both the statutory and non-statutory sectors. The work of the Project Group is being supported by the National Disability Authority and includes representatives from the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Disability Federation of Ireland, an independent service user and advocate for people with disabilities and a retired County Council Manager with relevant experience. Both Minister Reilly and myself have instructed the Project Group to seek solutions across the whole of Government, so that alongside representatives from the Department of Health and the HSE, membership also includes representatives from Pobal and from the Departments of Transport, Tourism & Sport, Environment, Community and Local Government, Social Protection and Finance.
The Project Group has already met twice and their next meeting is scheduled for 25th March. The Government decision includes a requirement that the results of the review will be presented to the Government before any final decisions are made on future arrangements.