02 Dec 2021

Tipperary TD Martin Browne raises the issue of transport supports for people with disabilities in the Dail

Martin Browne

Martin Browne

Tipperary TD Martin Browne and Cavan-Monaghan TD Pauline Tully raised the issue of transport supports for people with disabilities in the Dail this morning.

Mr Browne and Ms Tully (both Sinn Fein) challenged the Minister of State responsible for public health, wellbeing and national drug strategy, Frank Feighan, on schemes closed in 2011.

They say the report published by the Ombudsman shows that the schemes are not adequately supporting people with disabilities.

"The problems he has identified in the report are problems I'm sure every constituency office has received from people in need of these supports through schemes. It outlines the absolute injustice being experienced by people with disabilities through the inadequate transport from previous governments and perpetrated by the current one," said Mr Browne.

In his report Grounded: Unequal access for people with disabilities to personal transport schemes, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said the following:

"Fairness is a key value that underpins all the work of my Office in the investigation of complaints, and there is no doubt in my mind that the current situation in terms of access to supports for transport for those living with a disability is unfair.

It places an unfair burden on people living with a disability that hampers their ability to engage on an equal basis in employment and in their community."

Further down in the report and as quoted by Mr Browne, the Ombudsman said:

"I am very concerned that the issues identified appear to have effectively been ignored and that nine years later, there is no evidence of any real progress that would serve to enhance the lives of those for whom these schemes were intended to assist with their daily lives. This is of huge concern to me."

Ms Tully asked the Minister of State how the government plans to address the issue and if it would take another nine years to see progress.

The Minister of State, Mr Feighan, thanked the deputies for raising the issue and said the government is taking several actions to remedy the situation.

"Under the current remit of the Minister for disability Anne Rabbitte, work is ongoing policy proposals for the provision of transport proposals for people with disabilities. The Minister for health will then revert to government with proposals in due course," said Mr Feighan.

He said there are also supports in place to support people with disabilities.

Those he listed were the Free travel scheme under the Department of Social Protection, the Vehicles for People with Disabilities tax relief scheme and measures under the rural and community development CLÁR programme.

He also said there were a number of reviews and development in other departments, such as the department of transport, which may impact policy options in the future.

"I can assure the house of the government's continued commitment to finding long term equitable solution which meets the transport needs of those people with disabilities with the most significant challenges," said Mr Feighan.

Mr Browne urged the government to "speed up" their plans as the previous Ombudsman had raised concerns nine years ago.

Ms Tully said it "vicious cycle" as some people in rural areas do not have easy access to public transport and without transport cannot work to buy the cars they need.

Mr Feighan acknowledged both deputies points and reiterated the efforts currently being made by the government.

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