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Primary Medical Certificates

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 3 November 2020

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Ceisteanna (386, 388, 397, 405, 427, 430, 446, 448)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

386. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Finance when his Department will reissue primary medical certificates for disabled drivers and passengers in view of the fact this has been suspended following a court decision in June 2020; and the provisions and alternative arrangements that have been made for persons effected by this in the intervening time. [33151/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

388. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the primary medical certificate programme; if the programme is accepting new applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33297/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Emer Higgins

Ceist:

397. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Finance when the disabled drivers tax concession scheme will be reactivated to allow disabled drivers access the scheme which is so important to rural drivers with no access to public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32370/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

405. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Finance when a revised process for the recommencement of primary medical card assessments will be in place in order to allow drivers with disabilities to secure necessary supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32499/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

427. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Finance his plans to amend the legislation or regulations governing the primary medical certificate scheme in view of the Supreme Court appeal decisions (details supplied). [33088/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Ring

Ceist:

430. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Finance when the medical criteria set out in the regulations will be amended in view of the cessation of primary medical certificate assessments; when a revised basis for assessment will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33189/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Collins

Ceist:

446. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that families still have not received the primary medical certificate in view of the judgment on 18 June 2020 and his statement on 6 October 2020 that the families would be granted the certificate; his views on the fact that further costs could be incurred (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33708/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

448. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance when he anticipates the reopening of the disabled drivers and passenger scheme primary medical certificate to applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33769/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 386, 388, 397, 405, 427, 430, 446 and 448 together.

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 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 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 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.

In the first instance I acknowledge that the persons who successfully challenged the Medical Board of Appeal's refusal to grant them a PMC are, on the basis of the Supreme Court decision, entitled to seek access to the Scheme. The Supreme Court decision raised complex issues, including the manner in which the persons concerned can access the Scheme, given that the Regulation which set out the medical eligibility criteria was not found to be invalid and given that the persons concerned were not assessed for a Primary Medical Certificate on the single criterion of being permanently and severely disabled. Notwithstanding this and in light of the Supreme Court decision I understand that the Medical Board of Appeal has issued Board Medical Certificates to the two successful litigants.

More generally, the Deputies will appreciate that the complex legal and policy issues raised by the Supreme Court decision will require careful consideration. In parallel to that consideration there is a need to examine how best the Scheme can target resources to those persons who most need them. I am currently giving consideration to policy and legislative proposals set out by my officials and will seek to progress this issue in the coming weeks.

In the interim, 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, it is not proposed to continue with PMC assessments until a revised basis for such assessments is 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.

My officials were in contact with the Medical Board of Appeal and with officials in the Department of Health and will continue to liaise with them, as required, going forward. I have also written to the Minister for Health to request that there are no further PMC assessments until a sound legal basis for such assessments is re-established.

While it is regrettable that PMC assessments are currently not taking place and I acknowledge that this will result in a growing waiting list, I can give a commitment that I will seek to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible such that PMC assessments can re-continue based on a firm legal basis.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the Scheme itself is still operating. All persons or charitable organisations that can currently access the Scheme will continue to be able to do so and make claims for tax reliefs and the fuel grant in the normal manner.

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