Disability allowances criticised in report

 

Most people with disabilities rely on help from relatives and friends to get by, a study suggests. More than one-third of disabled people borrow to meet everyday costs, says the report, published yesterday by the National Rehabilitation Board.

"The self-esteem and health of many suffer because of the indignity of poverty," it says.

Seventy to 80 per cent of people with disabilities are unemployed, it estimates. Those at work are generally on very low incomes and can face high transport costs.

One person assisted by the NRB last year was paying £70 a week in taxi fares to and from work, Dr Arthur O'Reilly, the board's chief executive, said yesterday.

For the survey 59 people with disabilities - or their carers in the case of a small number of people with mental handicaps - were interviewed in depth about their finances.

One of the more striking findings is the extent to which disabled people must finance the cost of special appliances and aids without help from the health boards.

Almost half those interviewed had spent sums ranging from £10 to £300 on these items.

"Only one in five got their equipment on their medical card or had it supplied by a hospital in their health board area."

Most of those questioned knew of equipment, furniture or adaptations to their homes which would make life easier for them. "Lack of money, however, prevented most from making these purchases and adaptations."

Dr O'Reilly said a "cost of disability" allowance of £30 a week would make an enormous difference.

The report shows that lack of money and inaccessible transport (nearly half those interviewed cannot use their bus and rail passes because they cannot get on to the buses and trains provided by CIE) trap many disabled people at home unable to have a social life or to make friends.