Sunday 16 December 2018

Elderly man and woman take court action over winter clothing

The Four Courts, Dublin
The Four Courts, Dublin

Tim Healy

An elderly man and woman have separately challenged a Government department's refusal to grant them an exceptional needs payment for winter clothing.

Patrick Cullen (83), of Ballybough Court, Ballybough, Dublin, who suffers chronic pain as a result of a previous fracture in his foot, received the payment every year for the past 30 years.

However, he was refused the payment last December, the High Court heard.

In a separate but similar challenge, Sarah Ryan, of Annesley Close, Ballybough, Dublin, who suffers from a number of medical complaints, including kidney disease, was also refused an exceptional-needs payment for winter clothing.

Her medical conditions are exacerbated by cold weather and, until the December 2017 refusal, had received the payment over some 15 years, the court was told.

It was claimed the exceptional needs payment (ENP) scheme was being improperly applied by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty on a nationwide basis, affecting thousands of applications a year.

An ENP, usually for about €100, is designed to meet an exceptional need of a recipient of social welfare or HSE payments.

There is no automatic entitlement to such payments which are made at the discretion of the department's representatives.

They are generally used for special clothing for people who are ill, bedding and cooking utensils for those moving into a new home, or to visit a relative in hospital.

Both Mr Cullen and Ms Ryan were told by the department last December they were not entitled to an ENP because their need was not exceptional and "not unforeseen". The refusals were upheld following reviews.

There is no provision in the Social Welfare Acts for a test of unforseeability and the refusals are unlawful, arbitrary, unreasonable and disproportionate, it was claimed.

Feichín McDonagh SC secured leave from Mr Justice Seamus Noonan yesterday for judicial review of the refusals in both cases.

Irish Independent

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