Fianna Fáil Education spokesperson Charlie McConalogue says HSE delays in returning discretionary medical cards to families is costing them as much as €650 in school transport fees. A Government u-turn in the aftermath of the local elections promised that cards would be returned to those who lost them between July 2011 and May 2014 during a Department of Health review. However, figures released this week indicate that just over 10,000 of the 18,000 people who had discretionary cards removed, have had them reimbursed.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “Thousands of families across the country are being faced with substantial school transport bills, some as high as €650, because the HSE has failed to return discretionary medical cards on time. Families with valid medical cards have fees for the school transport scheme waived. However, because of delays in the system, many are now being asked to pay these transport costs.
“The Government has allowed a completely unacceptable and unfair situation arise, whereby families who are entitled to free school transport are being billed for the cost because of a delay in a system that is beyond their control. Many parents are now facing fees of €220 for primary school students and up to €650 for secondary school pupils.
“Bus Eireann has informed me that it will refund any family that has to pay the fees now if they subsequently have a discretionary medical card returned. However for families who have limited means of income this is a very high cost to be imposed on them. This is already an extremely expensive time of year, with uniform and book costs putting extra pressure on already hard pressed families. This has the potential to cause significant problems for families who have had a discretionary medical card withdrawn, as many are already facing substantial medical bills and will find it difficult to find the money for this additional cost.
“These families are now facing school transport fees as a result of the government’s failure to follow through on its post-election promise to reinstate discretionary medical cards. I am calling on the Health Minister to ensure that his Government honours its commitment to restore these cards in a speedy manner, in order to avoid further hardship for these families”.