THE Government sparked an angry backlash by scrapping the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant for people with a severe disability.
The Department of Health made the shock announcement that it will stop accepting any new applications for the mobility allowance.
The 4,700 people who are already receiving it will continue to get the payment, but only for another four months.
The Government says it will devise a new scheme to provide financial assistance to those with a disability who need help with their transport costs.
But the Opposition and disability groups last night criticised the decision, and said they feared a cut in payments was on the cards.
John Dolan, Disability Federation of Ireland chairman, said the move had come "totally out of the blue".
He said: "There have been no negotiations with anybody."
Member organisations had been left extremely worried and wanted more information, he added.
Last year, Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly castigated the department for imposing restrictions to mobility and transport allowances, which she said were illegal.
She found the upper age limit of 66 years for the mobility allowance was discriminatory and in breach of the Equal Status Acts.
She also found that no account was taken of the mobility of those with psychological or intellectual disabilities.
A government spokesman said: "The Government is conscious of the position of the Ombudsman that the schemes are illegal in the context of the Equal Status Acts.
"The Government has today decided that it is no longer possible to allow the two schemes to continue as they presently operate and to devise an alternative scheme for meeting people's needs.
"The decision has been taken after the commencement of a consultation review process with representatives of those people affected."
He added: "The decision is in no way intended to save costs, and the funding involved in the two schemes – worth €10.6m – remains committed to meeting the transport needs of relevant people."
But Mr Dolan of the Disability Federation said: "The department is taking the view that it was forced to take this action.
"The department is not the victim here, the 4700 people with disabilities and their families are the victims of what can accurately be described as an unprecedented and unannounced withdrawal of vital funding."
And Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain questioned whether there would be cutbacks involved.
"Health Minister James Reilly must come into the Dail and make himself accountable on this matter," he said.