Budget 2022: Grant for purchasing wigs is ‘huge boost’ for people with alopecia

People who suffer hair loss due to illnesses or chemotherapy will be eligible for support

Budget 2022 will include a new grant to support people who suffer hair loss due to chemotherapy or from illnesses. Photograph: iStock

Budget 2022 will include a new grant to support people who suffer hair loss due to chemotherapy or from illnesses. Photograph: iStock

 

A new grant which offers financial support to people who suffer hair loss will be a “huge boost” to those with alopecia, many of whom will have struggled to afford wigs before now, a wig specialist and hairdresser in Kilkenny has said.

Kieran O’Gorman, who runs a hair, beauty and day Spa in Kilkenny which specialises in wigs, said Tuesday’s news that the treatment benefit scheme would be expanded as part of Budget 2022 to include a grant towards the purchase of wigs and hair pieces was “fantastic”, particularly for people who suffer from alopecia and who have “felt let down so much”.

“The fact that they’re being listened to will give them a huge boost that they’re not being forgotten and that someone is paying attention.”

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys is set to announce that Budget 2022 will include a new grant designed to support people who suffer hair loss due to chemotherapy or from illnesses such as alopecia (which can result in the loss of some or all of a person’s hair from their scalp).

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The measure is to be introduced through the expansion of the treatment benefit scheme and is expected to dedicate up to €500 towards the cost of the wig.

Kieran O’Gorman, who runs a hair, beauty and day spa in Kilkenny which specialises in wigs
Kieran O’Gorman, who runs a hair, beauty and day spa in Kilkenny which specialises in wigs

Alopecia

Mr O’Gorman, who has been a wig specialist for 18 years, said this support would be particularly meaningful for those suffering from alopecia. At present, medical card holders with alopecia can access a grant of up to around €440 but those without the card do not receive financial support in purchasing a wig, he said, adding that most insurance companies do not cover wig costs for alopecia either.

A good-quality wig will cost somewhere between €1,000-€1,500 and will last up to 12 months, he added. “This is huge from the point of view of people with alopecia. There’s lots of people who come through my door with no cover or insurance and they’re not eligible for medical card. This has been an ongoing issue for them and having alopecia is so stressful in the first place.”

Cancer patients currently receive grants towards wigs, available through the HSE, while medical cards cover €400-€700 of the cost of a wig depending on where the patient is based in Ireland, said Mr O’Gorman. Those with medical insurance can often apply for financial assistance in purchasing a wig, he said. However, the additional State support for cancer patients will be very welcome, he added.

Mr O’Gorman’s wig specialist salon works with all ages suffering from all types of hair loss, from alopecia areata (when hair falls out in patches) to alopecia totalis (the complete lost of hair on the scalp) as well as hair loss during chemotherapy.

In the past, many of his clients would have felt ashamed about losing their hair but this has changed in recent years, he said. “Before it was all behind closed doors, people would be so embarrassed and we offered a private room for clients. But now, most of them will actually sit in the middle of salon and take their hair piece off. They don’t feel they have to hide it.”

However, there is still real embarrassment among young men when it comes to hair loss, he added. “Men going through this suffer just as much as women do, in fact it can be far worse. It affects teenagers and men in their early 20s and it’s a lot more difficult for them to wear a wig. Females can dress up with a wig, the men feel they need to keep it more private.”

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