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The HSE is working with the National Transport Authority (NTA) to carry out a survey to establish the extent of transport services available to people with disabilities, a HSE representative revealed in response to a parliamentary question.
Mr David Walsh, acting National Director of HSE Community Operations, responded to Independent Deputy Michael Harty who asked what provisions can be made by the HSE to refund taxi expenses to patients with disabilities visiting hospitals. In his response, Mr Walsh said that the HSE does not have “a statutory requirement to provide transport”, but that as an organisation it “endeavours to subsidise travel for service users where appropriate and where it is within budgetary limits”. The survey that the HSE is carrying out with the NTA aims to identify “gaps” in the availability of public transport for people with disabilities, the cost of transport for the group and to “make recommendations for better use of existing resources”.
This project is being funded by dormant account monies that the HSE secured and the project work is being carried out by Jacobs Engineering. Meetings have been arranged with the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, the Disability Federation of Ireland and Inclusion Ireland in order to present a project overview. This project is due for completion at the end of December this year.
Mr Walsh also said in his response that “specifically in relation to people with disabilities”, public transport should be taken “in all circumstances where it is an option”, as it ensures people with disabilities take part in community life as much as possible. As most of these service users receive disability allowance, they are “automatically entitled to the free travel pass”, and therefore there is no additional personal cost for transport services, according to Mr Walsh.