Two allowances for disabled to be discontinued

Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 00:00

The Department of Health has confirmed two allowances for disabled people will be discontinued, despite Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s recommendation that eligibility for mobility allowance and motorised transport grants be widened.

The department had accepted that its operation of both schemes is in breach of equality law but said the State could not afford to expand eligibility. Yesterday it said 4,700 people a year receive a mobility allowance, with 300 getting a motorised transport grant.

Remained committed

“The Government has today decided that it is no longer possible to allow the two schemes to continue . . . and to devise an alternative scheme for meeting people’s needs,” said the department.

A group has been tasked with selecting an alternative method “for ensuring that the needs of persons affected can be provided for in a manner that does not run counter to the Equal Status Acts”.

The department said the €10.6 million funding involved in the two schemes remained committed to meeting the transport needs of disabled people.

Payment of the mobility allowance to those receiving it will continue for four months.

Chief executive of Disability Federation of Ireland John Dolan said he was “shocked” by the announcement.

“The full rate of this means-tested allowance, €208.50 per month, will be permanently discontinued in four months’ time. This is a savage reduction given that most of the people involved are in receipt of a weekly disability allowance of less than €190 per week.”

Ms O’Reilly criticised Minister for Health James Reilly over his rejection of her recommendations about the schemes when she appeared before an Oireachtas committee in December.

Dr Reilly’s stance amounted to “an unequivocal statement that the law is optional”, she told the committee on public service, oversight and petitions.

The department said the Government was conscious of the position of the ombudsman that the schemes were illegal in the context of the Equal Status Acts.