Sunday 18 March 2018

Emer O'Kelly: Mobility grants can give a lift in more ways than one

The health minister must act to safeguard the rights and dignity of those who rely on support schemes

Emer O'Kelly

It's always suspicious when a public figure uses the word "agonised". Put bluntly, when people use it they're trying to give a moral or acceptable twist to behaviour that strikes the rest of us as fairly despicable. Minister of State Kathleen Lynch used it in the Dail during the week to describe the Cabinet's ruminations before it decided to wipe out the Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant for disabled people.

Four thousand seven hundred people currently get the Mobility Allowance. It amounts to a maximum of €280 per month on top of their disability pension of about €800 per month. (Most recipients get less than the maximum.) It costs the taxpayer about €9m annually. Three hundred people get the Motorised Transport grant which allows them to buy and have adapted a car in which they drive themselves. It costs about €1.3m annually. Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly told the Government in 2011 that the Mobility Allowance was illegal under the Equal Status Act because it didn't apply to people over the age of 66. And the Transport Grant was legally "too narrow" in its focus.

The government response has been to close down applications for either allowance immediately. And announce that the allowances will be withdrawn in four months' time from those currently in receipt of them. Because, you see, the Disability Act is a problem: because of its "broadness" the scheme would end up costing too much for our broke economy if operated legally.

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