Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (259, 268)

Pa Daly


259. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the resumption of assessments for primary medical certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38407/20]

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Danny Healy-Rae


268. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if issues with the primary medical certification service will be resolved in view of the large backlog of persons waiting and urgently in need of certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37937/20]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 268 together.

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from VRT and VAT on the purchase and use of an adapted car, as well as an exemption from motor tax and an annual fuel grant. The cost of the scheme in 2019, excluding motor tax, was €72m.

The Scheme is open to severely and permanently disabled persons as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain organisations. In order to qualify for relief an organisation must be entered in the register of charitable organisations under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2009, be engaged in the transport of disabled persons and whose purpose is to provide services to persons with disabilities.

In order to qualify for relief the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate (PMC) issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate (BMC) issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal. Certain other criteria apply in relation to the vehicle and its use, including that the vehicle must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.

The terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 set out the medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC.

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 judgment 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 have brought 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.