Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Ceisteanna (464, 473, 557, 564, 565, 572, 573, 580)

Patrick Nulty

Ceist:

464. Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if he will immediately reverse his decision to abolish the mobility allowance. [11834/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

473. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Health his plans to remove the upper age limit of 66 years for the mobility allowance in view of the fact that that has been recommended by the Ombudsman and that the upper age limit has already been removed for the motorised transport grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11023/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

557. Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health the way he will address the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant legality issue in order that the grants can resume within the four-month timeline that has been announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11398/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

564. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the changes to the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant; if he will clarify what will happen to these entitlements during the interim period of four months, especially for new and future applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11447/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

565. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will reverse the decision to axe the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant which will have an adverse impact and is an attack on persons with disabilities and goes right to the very core of their independence; his views on the Ombudsman's report which found the Government to be in breach of equality legislation because the schemes discriminated against those over 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11453/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

572. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the date on which the decision was made to end the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant; and if consideration was given to continuing the payment until such time as new schemes were in place. [11507/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

573. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify an issue regarding the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance (details supplied); and if he will state that no indication was given that it was intended to discontinue the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance. [11508/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

580. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will restore the payment of mobility allowance and motorised transport grant immediately [11580/13]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 464, 473, 557, 564, 565, 572, 573 and 580 together.

The Government is very conscious of the needs of people with a disability who require transport supports from the State and also conscious of the position of the Ombudsman that the Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant schemes are illegal in the context of the Equal Status Acts. Minister Reilly and I considered the recommendations of the Ombudsman in relation to both schemes carefully and in particular, we looked at the potential cost of implementing the recommended changes. Any additional cost incurred by expansion of the schemes would have to be met from current expenditure and result in a reduction of front-line specialist disability, older people and mental health services for people who need them. It is clear that an extension of either scheme would create serious financial pressure on the health budget in the current climate and would be unsustainable.

Following detailed consideration of issues involved with Cabinet colleagues, the Government decided on 26th February that it is no longer possible to allow the two schemes to continue as they presently operate and to devise an alternative solution for meeting people's needs. A special review group, which will be independently chaired, has been established to seek an alternative method to provide for the needs of people in a manner that does not run counter to the Equal Status Acts. Following the initial phase of the group's work, which will concentrate on issues around Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant, a key concentration of the group will be to look at opportunities for the enhancement of the transport options provided to the relevant persons in need. As part of the review, the Health Service Executive will examine the circumstances of all those currently benefiting from the schemes to ensure the identified solutions will encompass their priority mobility needs. In addition, the Minister for Health has instructed the HSE to contact each individual in receipt of the payments to notify them of this decision.

It is important to note that, although the Government's decision ends both schemes to new applicants with immediate effect, the payment of mobility allowance to those currently in receipt of it, will continue for another four months. It is also important to note that the decision is in no way intended to save costs and the funding involved in the two schemes (€10.6 million) remains committed to meeting the priority transport needs of people with a disability.