Thursday 19 September 2019

Disabled woman with cerebral palsy left without money with benefits 'under review' for nine weeks

Geraldine Maher with her eldest son John O'Reilly
Geraldine Maher with her eldest son John O'Reilly

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

A WOMAN with cerebral palsy has been left relying on her son for money as her disability and rent allowances and her husbands carer's allowance have been "under review" for nine weeks.

Geraldine Maher, from Christchurch in Dublin, was left with no electricity and no money for food or the female sanitary products she needed after her social welfare payments ceased. Her husband Michael Maher (71) who is her full time carer has also had his allowance paused.

Ms Maher said that she held out for as long as she could, but when she could no longer survive, she had to ask her son, John O'Reilly, for some of the money he was saving to build a house.

"It's scandalous what's happening to me. I'm disabled with Cerebral Palsy in a wheelchair and they cut me off my disability allowance and my rent allowance as well," she said.

"They cut me off without warning me. I've literally been robbing Peter to pay Paul. My son and daughter-in-law stepped in and they helped me my last month. They're trying to save for a home and they took their savings out to try and help me  from being homeless.

"I'm living off my pension. I've had to ring up my landlord and beg him to give us time. He was OK about it but it can't go any further so I had to go and ask my son and daughter-in-law for the second time. I don't want to beg my son for his house savings again.

"We were sitting here for two days with money and I didn't want to ask my son until I had to. I don't like doing that, it's humiliating. My ESB was cut off and we had no money for food between us. It's incredible to have that situation in this day and age. It's not on."

Ms Maher worked in the Central Bank for 32 years and receives a pension, but it is not even enough to pay her rent. Her husband formerly worked as a taxi driver, she says, but stopped to be her full time carer.

The 60-year-old said that her pension is being mistaken for a wage and her husband is being wrongly considered to be still working. Ms Maher says that she provided paperwork to prove otherwise but that she was told that is had been lost.

"They've asked for everything bar the last drop of blood in my body. I've sent in my marriage cert, I've sent in my birth cert, details from my bank, everything that was private and relevant to me and I've been told quite off the cuff, 'we've lost it. It's in situ but we can't do anything until you send it all over again.

"I'm a 60-year-old disabled woman. I'm retired and that's m,y pension but it only pays part of my rent and that's all. I'm not going out spending it on luxury items and I'm not going on holidays. It goes straight into the bank and pays part of my rent.

"I worked for 32 years. I payed my taxes. I lived my life right and now I'm getting abused like this for something I'm entitled to. I'm registered disabled.

A recording of Ms Maher and her son, Stephen O'Reilly, dealing with members of staff in the community welfare office, sent to the Independent.ie, reveals that they would not accept responsibility for the lost documents.

A female can be heard questioning Ms Maher's son, "would you not give your mother some money to get by." The male member of staff can also be heard suggesting on several occasions that Ms Maher can use her pension to get by to which her son replied, "a pension is not a wage sir, her pension is what she has from 30 odd years of hard graft."

Both the female agent and the male can be heard saying "we're going nowhere here," in an attempt to end proceedings. The man can be heard laughing to which Ms Maher replies, "you're supposed to be helping me and you're standing here laughing. All you can do is laugh, I wonder if it was your own mother would you be saying nothing."

Ms Maher's son, who remains reasonable throughout is also accused of threatening both members of staff and is told by the man, "I'm beginning to tire of your attitude son."

The events of this have had a serious affect on Ms Maher's mental health, she said.

"They asked me for how long I've been in a wheelchair and when did the accident happen. It was no accident, this happened when I was born. I'm not just doing this to scam them out of money I don't deserve. I'm looking for what I'm entitled to by law and they're just sitting on it.

"It has totally traumatised me and it has caused problems in our marriage as well. I was in tears.

"They don't want to know. You're old and you'll die soon. that's their attitude and they don't wan to know. I can't sleep. It takes me hours to sleep at night. I know it sounds like a hard luck story but I'm thinking about what's going to happen to me the next day."

Now into her tenth week without receiving a payment, Ms Maher was informed that there was an emergency cheque waiting for her in her welfare office, but after going to collect it, she was informed that the staff there had no indication that the cheque was due to be issued. 

The Department of Employment Affairs told the Independent.ie that they cannot comment on individual cases, but that recipients of social welfare monies "from time to time", will be tested to ensure that they are still eligible for the payments.

"In the case of both the Carer’s Allowance and Disability Allowance, applicants are subject to medical eligibility conditions and in addition must also satisfy a means test and residency test in order to qualify and retain their benefits.

"From time to time the Department will review existing claims in payment in order to ensure that the various eligibility criteria are still being met."

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