Ombudsman Ger Deering noted that it is shameful that disabled individuals are still denied the necessary government assistance to access personal transportation. This is despite a commitment made more than a decade ago to establish a proper support scheme. Reports from various government departments have highlighted the need for such support.
Speaking at the publication of his annual report for 2022, Ger Deering said:
“The manner in which people with disabilities continue to be denied access to personal transport supports is nothing short of shameful. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done but no one seems to be willing to take action”.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, there is an onus on the Irish government to provide access to transportation on an equal basis with others to enable people with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in society. The Ombudsman said that the current situation for people with disabilities is unfair and unacceptable.
The Ombudsman referred to issues with three schemes – the Motorised Transport Grant, the Mobility Allowance, and the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme. When Mr Deering’s predecessors as Ombudsman highlighted inequities in the schemes, the response of government was either to discontinue the schemes, or in the case of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers scheme, to reinforce the inequitable and inadequate eligibility criteria in primary legislation. In addition, the latter scheme has not had an appeals mechanism in place since November 2021.
In 2013, the then government announced that it would introduce an alternative to the Motorised Transport Grant and Mobility Allowance schemes. However, over ten years later nothing has happened. Both the Department of Finance (October 2022), and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (February 2023), have published reports on the issue but there has been no progress.
The Ombudsman stated that there are inequities when it comes to allocating funds for the transportation assistance for disabled people. He will continue to raise his concerns until the government takes immediate action to address this injustice.