Primary medical cert scheme processing to recommence

More than 1,300 applicants may have to wait until January 1 before the backlog is tackled
Primary medical cert scheme processing to recommence

Amanda Reeves and her daughter Alyssa, 4, who received their primary medical certificate last week as a result of the Supreme Court's recommendation earlier this year. Picture: Moya Nolan

The Government has confirmed that the processing of applications for the primary medical certificate (PMC) will resume, but more than 1,300 applicants may have to wait until January 1 before the backlog is tackled.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance confirmed that interim legislation will allow the scheme — which helps families to purchase or adapt vehicles for their children who have a disability — to recommence under existing criteria as part of the Finance Bill, with a full review of the criteria to then get under way.

However, the interim legislation will not kick in until January 1, meaning a further wait for more than 1,300 families who have had their applications "paused" since last June.

It comes as the two women involved in a successful Supreme Court challenge to the initial refusal of their applications said they should never have had to take the case.

Margaret Lennon and Amanda Reeves had both been turned down for PMCs on behalf of their children and had then lost out in legal challenges in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

However, they succeeded in the Supreme Court last June, but told the Irish Examiner they only received the PMCs in recent weeks.

They also said any inference that their action had caused other applications to be paused was unfair and incorrect. Both said they knew of other families who had been awarded PMCs since June, having cited the Supreme Court verdict.

"The whole goal was to change this for everybody," said Ms Reeves. "For so many families it's all paused for them."

Referring to the Supreme Court judgment on June 18, the HSE said: "Following a request from the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Health has instructed that there should be no medical assessments of applicants for Primary Medical Certificates until further notice, pending clarification of the legal position through the Department of Finance."

The HSE said 405 applications for PMCs had been approved up to June and at the end of September 1,314 applications for a PMC were "on hold".

On Monday evening, independent TD Denis Naughten said he had been informed by finance minister Paschal Donohoe that the scheme would restart under previous conditions.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance told the Irish Examiner: "The interim measure, Amendment of Section 92 of Finance Act 1989, is due to come into force on January 1, 2021, to reinstitute the PMC process while the eligibility criteria are reviewed.

"The aspects of the scheme that relate to VAT and VRT must be administered by Revenue as they have the relevant taxpayer data and expertise required to administer a scheme refunding those taxes. The Department of Finance is responsible for the legislation governing the scheme, however."

The Disabled Drivers and Passenger Scheme is operated by the Department of Finance, and HSE community medical doctors carry out an independent medical assessment of applicants for this scheme. The appeals process is independent and is operated by the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal.

Figures provided by the appeals body show the very low rate of unsuccessful applications that are overturned.

Of 214 appeals lodged from January to March this year, 116 were assessed and just four were granted a PMC on appeal.

Last year, 684 appeals were lodged, 423 were assessed, and just nine were granted a PMC on appeal.

More in this section