State urged to postpone school bus fees over medical card review

Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney says some families face bills of up to €650

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to postpone charging school transport fees for families who are still waiting on the outcome of their discretionary medical card review.

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to postpone charging school transport fees for families who are still waiting on the outcome of their discretionary medical card review.

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 20:47

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to postpone charging school transport fees for families who are still waiting on the outcome of their discretionary medical card review.

The party’s special needs spokesman Colm Keaveney said some families were facing bills of up to €650 because their medical card entitlement was still under consideration.

Families with a valid medical card have access to the free school transport scheme.

Mr Keaveney said he was “appalled at the treatment of these families” who were forced to pay transport fees because of a delay in the review process.

“This is an extremely expensive time of year with uniform, book and other back-to-school costs mounting. Many simply do not have the money to pay for these transport costs, which are covered under the medical card,” he said.

‘Under pressure’

“The families of these children are already under pressure having to pay substantial medical costs, and it is extremely unfair for the Government to ask them to pay school transport fees before the review of their medical cards is completed.”

Mr Keaveney called the situation “another failure of this Government’s disability policies” and claimed “parents of children with disabilities and special needs are being targeted once again”.

Bus Éireann has agreed to refund all fees once the medical cards have been returned. However, Mr Keaveney argued “that does nothing to help those families who are struggling to cover these costs”.

In response, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education noted the assessment of children for medical card eligibility was a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) rather than the department.

“However, the Department wishes to clarify that under the terms of the school transport scheme for children with special educational needs, eligible children are exempt from school transport charges. Thus it is not the case that ‘Parents of children with disabilities and special needs are being targeted once again’.”

An HSE spokeswoman said it “provides a range of supports for families dealing with disability…irrespective of whether or not a child holds a medical card.

“During the course of a renewal of a medical card eligibility remains in place for all medical card holders who are engaging in the renewal process.

“It is also important to recognise that persons with certain long-term conditions can register under the Long Term Illness Scheme.

“Under this scheme they are entitled to drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their condition, free of charge. It does not depend on their income or other circumstances and is separate from the Medical Card Scheme and the GP Visit Card Scheme.”