MORE than 300 disabled Clare people face a future of “darkness and isolation” as the axing of the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant sentences them to being prisoners in their own homes.
Disabled Clare people are today preparing to wage war against the Department of Health in a last-gasp effort to protect their independence. Campaigners claim that the cuts will prevent Clare people with disabilities from reaching their full potential and lead to isolation, depression and suicide, especially in rural parts of the county.
The Department of Health decided to axe the schemes after Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly repeatedly warned the age limit on the payments was in contravention of equality legislation. It claimed that extending the schemes along with Ms O’Reilly’s recommendations would cost approximately €170 million per annum.
This claim was disputed by campaigners in Ennis yesterday, who say the additional cost of including those over the age of 66 in the scheme would be minute.
The criteria for qualifying for both schemes is currently very strict. Candidates must prove that they are profoundly disabled and undergo a means test in order to be considered. Just 300 of Clare’s 9,000 disabled people currently qualify, meaning that the number of elderly Clare people coming onto the scheme, if it was extended to them, would likely be small, they argue.
“Elderly people would have to prove that they are profoundly disabled and show that their income is so low that they would pass the means test. So, if the existing scheme was extended to older people, there would be a tiny amount of extra people who would qualify,” said Anne Marie Carroll, who qualified for both schemes until she entered full-time employment.
“The legal issue here is a red herring. In my opinion, this is the Government trying to put manners on the Ombudsman because she has been outspoken on a number of issues. We are the fall guys in this, because disabled people are seen as a group who won’t stand up for themselves.”
Disabled people from all over Clare are now worried that the loss of the schemes will make them prisoners in their own home.
“If this goes, it means I cannot get out,” said Ennis man Thomas Connole, who is visually impaired. “This allowance will go, and I am worried I am going to be housebound. I will effectively be trapped in my own home.”
According to Tom King, the former chair of Disabled People of Clare (DPOC), disabled Clare people are ready to fight the Government for these allowances.
“This takes away the possibility of employment and a social life, but the main thing that it takes way is independence. This is going to leave disabled people isolated, in their homes, alone,” he said.
“There is an appetite on the ground to fight this. People with disabilities are feeling the recession as much as everyone else. We don’t have the money in our pockets to cover this and we are ready for a fight.”
See page 14 of this weeks Clare People for the full story