The Deputy will be familiar with the background to the closure of both the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant schemes in 2013.
The Deputy may be aware that my colleague, the Minister for Health and I, brought a Memorandum to Government on proposals for a new Transport Support Payment Scheme. Following Cabinet consideration, the Memorandum was withdrawn at that time. I intend to revert to Government in due course with revised proposals to reflect the discussions at that Cabinet meeting and further discussions between myself and Minister Harris, on the best way to progress the Transport Scheme.
It is important to note that the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme, operated by the Revenue Commissioners, remains in place. This scheme provides VRT and VAT relief, an exemption from road tax and a fuel grant to drivers and passengers with a disability, who qualify under the relevant criteria set out in governing regulations made by the Minister for Finance. Specifically adapted vehicles driven by persons with a disability are also exempt from payment of tolls on national roads and toll bridges. Transport Infrastructure Ireland has responsibility for this particular scheme.
The Deputy may wish to note that in July last, my colleague the Minister for Rural and Community Development, announced CLÁR funding of €890,632 to 20 voluntary community organisations. This funding will support the purchase and/or fit out of vehicles to provide transport for people in rural areas with mobility issues. It will support voluntary organisations that provide:-
- transport for people with significant mobility issues, including those requiring specialised wheelchair accessible vehicles, to day-care or other medical, therapeutic or respite services; or
- transport to/from designated cancer treatment hospitals/centres under the National Cancer Care Programme.
The Deputy might be interested to know that the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D., has commissioned research into the cost of disability. The cost of disability can be defined as the amount it costs a person with a disability to achieve the same standard of living as those persons without a disability. This includes extra living costs such as heating; disability aids and equipment; medical and drug costs; care costs and transport costs. Following a procurement process, Indecon International Consultants have been commissioned by that Department to carry out this research. It is hoped that the research, when complete, will inform policy direction in relation to the provision of adequate supports to meet the needs of people with disabilities, from a whole-of-Government perspective.
There are improvements in access to a range of transport supports available to persons with disabilities in the State and on-going work is being carried out by Government Departments, agencies and transport providers to further improve access to public transport services. Under the National Disability Inclusion Strategy, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has responsibility for the continued development of accessibility and availability of public transport for people with a disability.
The issue in relation to hospital transport has been referred to the HSE for a direct reply to you.