Latest cut is bad news for disabled drivers

 

Sir, – I was appalled to learn in recent days that the Department of Finance and the Government had quietly suspended a long-established scheme for disabled drivers and passengers without warning and without any alternative plan in place. The scheme in questions was the primary medical certificate, which had been available to disabled drivers and passengers and was needed to claim VAT and vehicle registration tax exemption on wheelchair-adapted vehicles.

This suspension of the primary medical certificate is the third cut that has been made by government since 2013 that directly impacts people’s ability to live and travel independently. In 2013, after the suspension of two separate transport and mobility provisions, we were promised a replacement with a “more equitable” scheme but this has not yet happened. People with disabilities and their families cannot wait another seven years and put their lives on hold while waiting for a solution to this recent cut. They were left behind through the country’s recovery and now, on top of the impacts of Covid, they are being penalised again.

People with disabilities do not have full access to public transport, especially in rural areas. For a person with a disability, being able to drive or have an accessible vehicle is the difference between being able to access education, employment and see family and friends. A car allows parents of children with disabilities to afford a family car that can cater for their child, which is hardly a luxury in today’s society.

The Government has stated that this scheme cost the State €75 million in 2019. The important link that is missing in this consideration is that without schemes like this, people are locked up in their homes, relying on the State for much-needed resources and increasing the demand on the Department of Social Protection and the HSE.

The Irish Wheelchair Association is calling on the Government to reverse this decision immediately. The rights of people with disabilities to full and independent transport must be respected. – Yours, etc,

JOAN CARTHY,

National Advocacy Manager,

Irish Wheelchair

Association,

Clontarf, Dublin 3.