Blind and deaf groups condemn 'savage' cutbacks
BLIND and deaf charities last night accused the Government of making "savage" cuts to people with disabilities.
Thousands of blind and deaf people have had their pay, allowances and pensions cut in the Budget.
"The Government is paying lip service to equity by trying to include everybody," Des Kenny, chief executive of the National Council for the Blind, told the Irish Independent.
"I'm concerned about the savage cuts to allowances and pensions particularly and about 4,000 of our members will be hit. They have no other way of finding income and the pension is vigorously means tested."
The cuts for the visually impaired include:
- An €8 cut to the weekly blind pension.
- A €61 cut to the weekly supplementary payment for those receiving a pension.
- A €180 reduction in annual tax credits to €1,650.
Mr Kenny called on Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv to reverse the blind pension cut, pointing out that the state pension was unchanged.
"It clearly should have been part of the pensions protection in the Budget," he said.
John Mangan, chief executive of the Irish Deaf Society (IDS), said many of its 5,000 members would take a hit through the €1 cut to the minimum wage at a time when funding for its services had also been slashed.
"Over the past two years funding for our advice centres and support services . . . has been cut by 20pc to around €100,000," he added.
"We have only been given guarantees for this funding for the first three months of 2011 and it will then be reviewed by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs."
Mr Mangan said many of the society's members lived in rural areas and depended on the limited support services.
Opposition parties also claimed the cuts were unfair.
Labour Party spokesperson on Social Protection Roisin Shortall said: "There's no justification for cutting welfare, including payments for the blind."
But Mr O Cuiv defended the disability cuts, saying "The reduction in the Blind Pension is in line with the reduction to all rates for people of working age -- those under 66. Blind pensioners also receive free travel and household benefits and these have not been reduced."