The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme provides relief from Vehicle Registration Tax 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 charitable organisations. In order to qualify for relief, the applicant must hold a Primary Medical Certificate issued by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer (SAMO) or a Board Medical Certificate issued by the Disabled Driver Medical Board of Appeal.
I have no role in relation to the granting or refusal of PMCs and the HSE and the Medical Board of Appeal must be independent in their clinical determinations.
Certain other qualifying criteria apply in relation to the vehicle, in particular that it must be specially constructed or adapted for use by the applicant.
To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled, and satisfy at least one of the following medical criteria, in order to obtain a Primary Medical Certificate:
- 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.
The current medical criteria medical criteria were included in the Finance Act 2020, by way of amendment to Section 92 of the Finance Act 1989. This amendment arises from legal advice in light of the June 2020 Supreme Court judgement that the medical criteria in secondary legislation 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 (primary legislation).
As the Deputy will appreciate this Scheme confers substantial benefits to eligible persons and changing the medical criteria to more general mobility-focused criteria, would raise the already considerable cost of the Scheme in terms of tax foregone to the Exchequer. Any increase in the cost of the Scheme would require a concomitant increase in tax, reduction in public expenditure, or increase in the Exchequer deficit.
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.
Accordingly, I gave a commitment to the House that a comprehensive review of the scheme, to include a broader review of mobility supports for persons with disabilities, would be undertaken.
In this context I have been working with my Government colleague, Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. We are both agreed that the review should be brought within the wider review that was commenced in March 2020 under the auspices of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy, to examine transport supports encompassing all Government funded transport and mobility schemes for people with disabilities. Its work was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister O’Gorman has confirmed that he has asked his officials to reconvene the working group established to carry out that review at the earliest opportunity and we are both agreed that this is the most appropriate forum for the review. With this in mind, officials from both my Department and Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth have met recently to discuss proposals for progressing the Disabled Drivers Scheme review within the wider review. My officials will continue to work closely with officials from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, to progress this review, and on foot of that will bring forward proposals for consideration.