‘It’s costing me money to have a disability’

Helena Doyle. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Representatives from Longford’s elderly and disabled population believe swingeing government cutbacks to home adaptation grants will push indebted families deeper into poverty, writes Liam Cosgrove.

Representatives from Longford’s elderly and disabled population believe swingeing government cutbacks to home adaptation grants will push indebted families deeper into poverty, writes Liam Cosgrove.

It emerged last week that new applications for house adaptation grants will be sanctioned this year.

North Longford pensioner Mary Ellen Gray was one of courageous few to speak out on the enforced changes. She said the modest incomes senior citizens have to survive on could mean necessary upgrades for some like hand rails, kitchen aids and other appliances might have to be put on the long finger.

“I am disgusted,” she stoutly put it. “It’s deplorable what’s going on. It’s going to get to the stage where you might just have to do the necessary work yourselves.”

Setting aside her own indignation at the cuts, she puts society’s tolerance of continued austerity down to a lack of political pressure.

“The problem is people aren’t lobbying enough. I remember years ago when the farmers came out in great voice against something and in the end they got what they wanted,” she said.

Helena Doyle has spent the past 20 years and more battling dystonia, a neuroligical movement disorder that has left her consigned to a wheelchair.

She said the cut in grant support had come as a terrible blow.

“I was shocked when I heard it to be honest with you,” she said in an interview with the Leader over the weekend.

As a member of local voluntary organisation, Disabled People of Longford (DPOL), Helena knows more than most about what it takes to live and get around with a disability.

Earlier on in the year, she like thousands others were left reeling by news of the sudden axing of a €208 mobility grant.

Five months on, Helena is facing up to yet another financial headache.

Whereas the previous reductions were largely mobility based, this time around it’s raised doubts about Helena’s ability to carry out simple, everyday chores.

“I need a splint for showering but now it looks like we (disabled) have to go out and buy these kind of things,” she contended.

“I think it’s a disgrace, it’s just one thing after another for the disabled at the minute.”

She pointed out that uncertainty over future cuts was also a concern,

You just don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said. “It’s got to the stage where it is actually costing money to have a disabiliy.”