I propose to take Questions Nos. 228, 231, 232, 233, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239 and 240 together.
The Disabled Drivers & Disabled Passengers Scheme (DDS) 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 who also meet one of six specified medical criteria, as a driver or as a passenger and also to certain 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. 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. In the event that a PMC is not granted by the relevant Senior Area Medical Officer an appeal may be made to the independent Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal (DDMBA) who operate out of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
The members of the DDMBA wrote to me recently tendering their resignation from the Board. My officials are engaged with the Department of Health and the Public Appointments Service in terms of seeking expressions of interest from medical practitioners to participate in the Board. It is hoped to move this process along as quickly as possible so that appeals can recommence as soon as possible.
Requests for appeal hearings can be sent to the DDMBA secretary based in the National Rehabilitation Hospital. New appeal hearing dates will be issued once the new Board is in place. Assessments for the primary medical certificate, by the HSE, are continuing to take place. The number of applications for a Primary Medical Certificate and the number of those that were successful are a matter for the Department of Health.
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.
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 a wider review 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.
This the most appropriate forum to meet mutual objectives in respect of transport solutions/mobility supports for those with a disability.
It is anticipated that the NDIS working group will be meeting shortly. 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.