Disabled Driver Scheme a debacle entirely of Department’s own making – Imelda Munster TD
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster today put it to the Department of Finance that they had ‘opposed and dragged their feet over needed reforms to the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme’.
A member of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, Teachta Munster highlighted that despite a Supreme Court decision and a description of the scheme by the Ombudsman as ‘excessively restrictive’, ‘it took the resignation of the entire Board of Medical Appeal to force the Department to wake up an initiate a review’.
Teachta Munster said:
“The truth of the matter is that the flaws and issues with this scheme have been known for years and were clearly surmised by the Ombudsman in a report last November.
“The exact issue at hand here is that those restrictive criteria that the board of appeals must adhere to are set down in Statutory Instrument, and result in a success rate of as low as 5%.
“While officials today painted a picture of a scheme with roots decades old and as to how our understanding of disability has evolved over that period, it would seem apparent that the Departments own understanding only changed relatively recently.
“Indeed, it is very telling that despite two campaigns for expressions of interest to serve on the board in recent months, they have only managed to appoint 3 members to date.
“That in and of itself represents a shocking indictment of both the scheme and governments handling of this entire debacle.
“It is welcome that government have committed to meaningful reform of the scheme and this must be pursued as a matter of absolute urgency.
“In the interim, I remain concerned that the re-established board, operating largely as a stop gap for an undetermined period of time, will offer no new additional flexibilities to applicants who have been refused Primary Medical Certificates necessary to avail of the scheme.
“It also seems without any sense to me that despite a backlog of 670 awaiting appeal there was no increased allocation for the scheme in Budget 2023.
“We should be very clear, the Department were told about the problems with this scheme by the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman and in a very clear and succinct manner by the Board of Medical Appeal themselves when they resigned en masse.
“By dragging their feet, the Department actively exacerbated the issue.
“This is a mess and debacle entirely of the Departments own making, it is incumbent on them to now institute reforms in proper and prompt order so that their failures do not continue to disadvantage individuals seeking only what they need and are rightly entitled to.”