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Primary Medical Certificates

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 25 May 2021

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Questions (209)

Denis Naughten

Question:

209. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance if he will include fibromyalgia under the primary medical certificate scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28357/21]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Disabled Drivers & 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 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 Scheme set out the following medical criteria, and that one or more of these criteria is required to be satisfied in order to obtain a PMC:

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

- be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

- be without both hands or without both arms;

- be without one or both legs;

- be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

- have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

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 and appeals to recommence I brought forward an amendment to the Finance Bill to provide for the existing medical criteria in primary legislation which, following the approval of the Finance Act 2020, allowed assessments to recommence.

Following approval of the Finance Act 2020, a comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities and the criteria for qualification for the Scheme, will be conducted this year. On foot of that review new proposals will be brought forward for consideration.

Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 203.
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