A local man who suffers from the after effects of polio says that the government cuts to the mobility grants for disabled will leave people like him isolated in the community.
Speaking to the Dundalk Democrat Brendan, who is the region officer of the Post Polio Support Group (PPSG) said: “It’s a disgrace that people with disability are taking the brunt of the cuts. All of our members are over the age of 50 and they need all the help they can get from the state.
“There is up to 1,000 members of the Post Polio Support Group nationally, and many living in the Dundalk and North Louth area who will be effected by these cuts. I’m in contact with our members on a daily basis, as a volunteer of five years and having been nominated on two occasions for Volunteer of the Year.
“I can speak as a person with two disabilities. The services and clinics provided by the HSE have been cut back, the social welfare rate has bbeen cut, the annual respite grant to certain people has been cut; and now the mibility allowance has been axed, along with the motorized transport grant.
“Most of the Postpolio Support Group members rely heavily on teh mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant. Some of the members who contracted Polio in their early years are now affectred by Post Polio Syndrome and on top of that they are now facing uncertain future because of proposed cuts.
“The abolition of the scheme will result in our members living in isolations, prisoners in their own homes. Their independence which is so important for their mental wellbeing is being snatched from them.
“Isolation and depression is all they have to face if the government go ahead with these cuts. Do they really want to condemn a whole group to a future so bleak?” concluded Brendan.
Opposition parties have described the decision that affects around 5,000 people as scandalous and reprehensible, and have demanded an immediate U-turn.
But Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted the schemes were illegal, obsolete and discriminatory, and needed to be replaced with a fairer and more appropriate regime.
“These two schemes - the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance - are illegal, are not in conformity with the Disability Act, are not in conformity with the Equal Status Act, and are not in conformity with our constitution,” Mr Kenny said.
“We cannot stand over a scheme that is obsolete, that is unfair, that is discriminatory, that is not in compliance with these acts and therefore we have got to deal with it.”
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly had ruled last year that the scheme as it stood was illegal as it was not open to over 65s. She asked for it to be expanded.
The Department of Health accepted the scheme breached equality laws but said it could not afford the 300 million euro to widen eligibility.
Meanwhile, Age Action warned scrapping the schemes would have a huge impact on thousands of low-income people who depend on them.
Spokesman for the charity Eamon Timmins said the Government must have a replacement allowance lined up for after the last payments are made, saying: “Failure to have a replacement scheme agreed within four months will result in severe financial hardship 10,000 people with a disability, and this is totally unacceptable.”