A Government decision to scrap mobility grants for the disabled is likely to leave those worst affected by the move prisoners in their own homes, it was claimed this week.
Sam Thompson and Helena Doyle were, like thousands of other low income people living with disabilities, left reeling by the announcement last Wednesday that their €208 mobility grant was coming to an end.
Less than a week on from the scheme’s unexpected axing, both women spoke of their anger and how the measures have left huge question marks over their own futures.
“I didn’t think that there would be any more cutbacks to disability,” said a clearly upset Helena. “I was annoyed, worried and disappointed when it came out. I am worried because it is going to leave me more or less housebound.”
A member of local voluntary organisation, DPOL or Disabled People of Longford, Helena uses her monthly allowance to get in and out of town as well as to attend Longford Library where she works one day a week.
“I use that money for taxis. Yes I live in town but if it is raining I wouldn’t have a hope of getting around. I work one day a week and if the weather is bad I need that money for transport. People might think it’s a lot of money, but it’s not if you have to space that out over the whole month,” she insisted.
Helena, who suffers from Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, leaving her with chronic pain in her back and lower limbs said the termination of the grant couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“I feel very let down,” she continued. “It’s going to leave a lot of our members very isolated. When my own PA (Personal Assistant) goes at 12:30pm, I wouldn’t see anyone until I get an injection at 7:30pm in the evening.”
Likewise, a similar scenario faces 39-year-old Sam Thompson. The Birmingham native has bravely borne a disability she has carried since birth.
She had hoped to apply for the allowance to pay for driving lessons, something which she believed could have improved her everyday life enormously.
“This (scheme’s axing) just leaves me stranded. I walk around Tesco’s and I am done in,” said Sam despondently.
“How can they (Government) do that? I am very angry over it. There are full time wheelchair users who can’t get out unless someone is with them. For me, there is a problem with the whole system. If you have an illness and if you are not going to get any better, you should be given these things.
“I mean I have had to wait 19 months for social welfare and that really does say it all and I haven’t even got my back-pay yet. It just seems to be one rule for one and one for another. The whole thing is disgusting.”
Locally, politicians are also unhappy with the situation.
Cllr Mae Sexton branded the announcement as one of the most “mean-spirited” acts ever presided over by a government minister.
She also brushed aside arguments made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and others that both schemes had an illegal upper age limit and therefore had to be removed
“They knew about this a long time ago and for them (government) to suggest that in four months time some sort of alternative will be in place is to suggest that people living with disabilities are plain stupid.
“It’s a despicable act and again is yet another cut to the most vulnerable people that live in our society,” she said.