Tuesday, 20 March 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
304. Mr. Boylan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason people with disabilities, who avail of the mobility allowance and who also avail of the VRT-VAT relief scheme on their adapted cars, will have their mobility allowance taken from them; if his attention has been drawn to the devastation this is causing people with disabilities; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that these people will lose the £45 per month they already received; and if he will now give a commitment that people who claim VRT-VAT relief will also receive the mobility allowance of £90 per month. [7419/01]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme, which comes under the aegis of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners, enables qualifying persons to purchase a new car every two years free of vehicle registration tax, VRT and VAT, to a maximum of £7,500 if the qualifying person is the driver, and £12,500 if the qualifying person is a passenger. In addition, the scheme provides for the refund of excise duty on up to 600 gallons of fuel and an exemption from annual road tax. It is estimated that the scheme cost some £22 million in 2000, excluding the annual road tax costs.
The mobility allowance, which is a monthly payment administered by the health boards, provides financial support for severely disabled people who are unable to walk or use public transport, and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings, for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey. The rate of the allowance is being doubled to a maximum of £90 per month from 1 April, and it has been envisaged that from that date persons  who benefit from the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme would be unable to also avail of mobility allowance. By definition, the beneficiaries of the tax-based scheme have access to transport, which is heavily subsidised by the State, and the object of the new arrangement is to target the increased mobility allowance at incapacitated people who do not enjoy these advantages.
The Minister for Finance, in consultation with the Minister for Health and Children, has given further consideration to this proposal in the light of concerns expressed and representations received about the impact of complete cessation of the mobility allowance on some affected individuals, and it has now been decided that while the increased rate of £90 per month will, as intended, be given only to people who are not also enjoying the tax concessions, those benefiting from both schemes should retain the mobility allowance at the existing maximum rate of £45.60 per month.
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