Social Welfare Cuts Ireland – 2014

Since going into the wheelchair, I have been in the process of applying for and filling out endless social welfare forms and other such applications now that my Husband, nor I, can no longer work given my current disability.

I never realised how much there was that needed to be applied for when something like this happens.

However,  what came as the biggest surprise is how the Irish social welfare system has completely stopped some payments to new applicants without any prior warning, explanation or alternatives given to replace these payments to those who need it the most, for example, the Mobility Allowance, The Motorised Transport Grant, Diet allowance and Mortgage Interest Relief have all completely stopped outright to new applicants, with many changes in other payments.

However, Those who are currently receiving these payments will continue to do so until the scheme is updated.

Those who continue to get these payments are getting a substantially higher payment and far more benefits than what is now available to new applicants. This is very unequal and unfair. I will highlight the rates of pay below that I have come across directly myself and I will outline a brief explanation of the changes in each of the aforementioned payments as of 2014 with some links for more information, as follows:

I am aware that I have highlighted only a few of the changes overall. If there are any payments that I have not highlighted or that I have overlooked please let me know and I can add it to the post, Thank you.

As well as the obvious recommended payments for people with disabilities like Disability and Carers Allowance. Which have been so far left alone this year, the following are the payments that have either stopped outright, stopped to new applicants or have changes:

THE MOBILITY ALLOWANCE & THE MOTORISED TRANSPORT GRANT

This monthly payment has now been completely stopped to new applicants with no updated news on a replacement scheme, which was supposed to be put in place last June 2013. People currently getting the payment will continue to do so but it will eventually be faded out in lieu of a replacement scheme.

What also has stopped to new applicants as of the same date as this, is the Motorised Transport Grant for those people who need adaptations to their car in order to keep their job. This was done so under the radar that a lot of people are completely unaware of the stoppage.

What worries me is, that The social welfare/Government will come along and say that the Free Travel Pass, that those on some social welfare payments are entitled to, will cover this Mobility Allowance, when it simply doesn’t. Bus Eireann Busses (that will bring you from rural areas to accessible areas of the city) are NOT Wheelchair accessible at all. So getting anywhere from a rural or remote area means paying for a Taxi or relying on others to transport you, which completely defeats the purpose and that is why the Mobility allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant is valid and needed.

Now in February 2014, there is still no sign or mention of a replacement scheme for those of us who need it most – info as follows:

The Mobility Allowance: As printed on Citizens information.ie on the 14th February 2014:

The Mobility Allowance is a means tested monthly payment payable by the Health Service Executive (HSE). It is paid to people who are aged 16 and over and under age 66, and who have a disability and are unable to walk or use public transport and who would benefit from a change in surroundings; (for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey). If an allowance is awarded, it will be continued beyond the age of 66 but you may not apply for the allowance if you are aged 66 or over.

There is no specific legislation in Ireland providing for Mobility Allowance. Instead, this Allowance was introduced in 1979 by the Department of Health and is payable under Section 61 of the Health Act, 1970.

On 26 February 2013, the Department of Health announced that the Mobility Allowanced scheme was closed to new applicants. An alternative scheme is being devised to replace it.

On 11th June 2013, the Department of Health announced that Mobility Allowance would continue to be paid to those already receiving it until the scheme is replaced.

Rates:

The allowance is paid monthly. The lower rate is payable to those who are availing of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme. The rates for 2012 are:

High rate Low rate
€208.50 per month €104.25 per month

That is a substantial amount of extra money per month that some people are continuing to get, yet new applicants can no longer apply.

DIETARY SUPPLEMENT:

Another weekly payment that has been completely cut without any explanation as of the 1st of Feb 2014 is the Dietary Supplement.

Our local Social Welfare Employee told us that as the 1st of February fell on a Saturday this year 2014 (the day this payment stopped) She and the other workers only got the email memo sent about it when they arrived into work on Monday the 3rd, She said they got no prior warning or explanation.

Changes in 2014 – As printed on Citizens information.ie on the 14th February 2014:

The diet supplement was discontinued for new applicants from 1 February 2014.

However, people who were getting Diet Supplement before 1 February 2014 can continue to keep the payment (for as long as they continue to be entitled to the payment).

You are entitled to retain the diet supplement for a prescribed diet, if you:

  • Have a specified medical condition
  • Meet the conditions for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) and
  • Satisfy a means test

To get a diet supplement, a hospital consultant or a hospital registrar must certify:

  • That you or your adult dependant or child dependant has been prescribed a diet because of a specified medical condition
  • The type of diet prescribed
  • How long you will need the prescribed diet.

A gluten free diet for an adult or a child aged 18 to 22 may be prescribed by your family doctor (GP).

In the case of diet supplements, for example, for people with cystic fibrosis, the long-term illness scheme book may be accepted as verification that such a diet has been prescribed. The length of time for which the diet is being prescribed and the type of diet must be stated.

Qualifying diets

The weekly cost of each prescribed diet is set by the Department of Social Protection. The following diets qualify for the diet supplement: (Some people are continuing to get these payments, but new applicants can not apply)

Qualifying prescribed diets Cost of diet, €
Low-lactose, milk-free diet 65.43
Gluten-free diet 68.43
High-protein, high-calorie diet 71.43
Altered consistencies (liquidised) diet 74.93

HOUSING ADAPTATION GRANTS:

They are very difficult to get as funds are being held tight at the moment. I have also been told from a Social Welfare Employee over the phone that they have not been allocated the funds for 2014 as of yet and that I will more than likely not hear anything about this until next year 2015. I had all documents in since the end of 2013!

Changes in 2014 – As printed on Citizens information.ie on the 14th February 2014:

Changes to 3 housing grant schemes were announced in January 2014 and came into effect immediately. The main changes to the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability are:

  • The maximum income threshold has been reduced to €60,000 (previously €65,000)
  • The percentages of approved costs covered by the grant have been adjusted on a sliding scale (but the maximum grant stays at €30,000, or 95% of approved costs)
  • Extension works will only qualify if no suitable cheaper option is feasible
  • An occupational therapist must confirm that the works are fit for purpose and that they meet the applicant’s needs in the most economic way
  • Income of all household members will now be included in the means test (though Carer’s Allowance should be disregarded)
  • Applicants must prove that they have complied with the Local Property Tax

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government say it is preparing revised guidelines for the 3 schemes.

MORTGAGE INTEREST SUPPLEMENT

This weekly payment has now been completely stopped from social welfare. If you are now having difficulty with your Mortgage payments you must speak to your bank in organising help with your payments, yet, once again, People who are currently on it or who applied before Jan 1st 2014 will continue to get payments for as long as they are entitled.

Changes in 2014 – As printed on Citizens information.ie on the 14th February 2014:

Mortgage Interest Supplement (MIS) provides short-term support to help you pay your mortgage interest repayments.

From 1 January 2014, the Mortgage Interest Supplement scheme is closed to new entrants and no new applications will be accepted from this date. This measure does not affect current claimants immediately (people who were getting Mortgage Interest Supplement before 1 January 2014). The scheme will be wound down for these claimants over a 4-year period.

If you are experiencing short-term mortgage difficulties your lender must support and engage with you under the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process (MARP). The website, keepingyourhome.ie, provides comprehensive information on the services and entitlements available if you are having difficulties making your mortgage repayments.

RESPITE CARE GRANT

The Respite Care Grant used to be €1700 and is now €1,375 and is paid once each year, usually on the first Thursday in June, for each person you are caring for. It is not taxable.

Changes in 2014 – As printed on Citizens information.ie on the 14th February 2014:

Information

The Respite Care Grant is an annual payment made to carers by the Department of Social Protection. Carers can use the grant in whatever way they wish. You can use the grant to pay for respite care if you wish, but you do not have to do so. More information about respite care facilities is available.

In June of each year (usually on the first Thursday of the month), the Department of Social Protection pays the grant automatically to carers getting Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance or Prescribed Relative’s Allowance from the Department. Only one Respite Care Grant can be paid for each person getting care.

__________________________________________________________________________

The long and short of this is, The Irish Social Welfare System needs to get the finger out and sort out their payments so that it is fair and considerate to all people on these benefits.

Some people are out of work, not by choice but because they have been forced to by illness or some other uncontrollable outside source. In these situations support from the state is expected and yet, never organised enough or forthcoming at all.

The only thing about this whole thing that bothers me the most is that the people who already are getting some of the payments will continue to do so until a ‘new scheme’ is written up, and there is no sign of that happening nearly a year after they said it would. New applicants need not apply, we don’t even get the chance to anymore.

This has caused a serious situation of inequality for those who find themselves newly disabled. These people are the most vulnerable in their new state, but receive no proper support.

These haven’t been cuts, they are a cost saving exercise at the expense of the newly disabled which is simply not fair.

I would love feedback on how any of this has affected you directly or affected someone you know. As always you can submit a comment here or write to me at irishpotsies@gmail.com, either anonymously or otherwise, I always love to hear from you 🙂

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Back To work with Dysautonomia!

So yeah, Here is the blog post ye have been waiting for! 🙂

I had said it to you over on the Facebook page that I wanted to take a different direction for this little blog. I still want to raise awareness as much as I can, share my experiences and things that help, but now I have something new to share with all of you.

I am back to work with this illness, and so far, so awesome! 🙂

So I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be cool to share that experience, Irish fainting goat girl with Dysautonomia returns to work for the man in the real world, how does she get on?

Well lets find out shall we? I want to share my working experience with you while I have this condition, the positive aspects mainly and any difficulties or surprises that I encounter along the way.

For obvious reasons I am not going to say for whom I work, people close to me or know me through other social networking sites may know but I will keep that off the cards. However I can say, that I have a lovely cushty number working from home, full time for a well known company where I provide technical support via Computer and phone.

I was first diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome when I was 28 back in April 2011. It came out of the blue and as I wasn’t prepared for something that debilitated and disabled me so severely at the start, I quickly found myself in a steep wallowing rut where I lacked all motivation to do anything, much less think about work.

In the summer previous to this, 2010, I had just completed a Masters of Science, of which I was very proud and worked very hard for and once finished, I wanted to pursue starting my own business in Media (Photography and Video). Then this happened and I was devastated, to say the least.

I was always someone who kept busy to some degree, I have worked since I was 16 and I knew once the Masters was finished that I had a plan.

That plan shattered around me when I got my diagnosis. Not initially mind you, I have a very positive outlook and I tried to fight the reality for as long as I could but constant relapses, catching bugs, fainting and reoccurring hospital visits soon also shattered my motivation to get anything done.

During this time especially, I have my husband to endlessly thank for the immeasurable help and encouragement that he provided. He has been my rock and my savior (no I am not religious in the least, but you know what I mean)  😉

Through one event and another, in August 2011, I decided to go ahead and start my own business anyway, with the help of my husbands amazing support I said I would at least give it a shot. I was still very ill but really didn’t want to give into the illness and anyway, who would hire me knowing I have this condition? I could barely stand up for 15 mins without passing out and falling over and breaking a bone or something (Later in 2012 I was also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), so that explained all the broken bones and stuff!)

So I gave it a go and even got busy. I started getting calls from colleges to document events and Artists work, Weddings became a frequent work day and shortly afterwards even the videography started getting interest from people.

I tried and I worked and with endless help from my better half I somehow managed, but I found that I was unreliable, to just myself. I never left a client down, but in doing so, I suffered greatly. One day of photography, especially the weddings which required travel all over the country, up to and sometimes exceeding 12 hours, usually left me bed bound for up to 3 days afterwards in dire straights with severe Pots and Dysautonomia symptoms which eventually ended up being swiftly followed by being admitted to hospital and then the left overs of the job were left to my husband to clean up and get finished, and that was just unfair and happening all too often.

It was tough, it broke down my motivation for wanting to succeed and I was physically, health wise, incapable of keeping up to the work when I started out.

However as time went on, I started to do a little better.

In 2012, even though I had 8 hospital admissions, my specialists finally had me on a concoction of medication that seemed to have somewhat stabilized me. Towards the end of the summer that year, I stopped eating Wheat and Gluten to see if that would help my terrible digestion and tummy issues caused by a combination of the Dysautonomia and the medication I was on to treat it!! Going gluten free was just the start of the improvements I was about to see in my health.

In October 2012 I was also diagnosed with EDS type3, which accounted for all the musculoskeletal and digestive issues I was having. Having this diagnosis helped in my understanding Dysautonomia better and allowed for a better understanding for my specialists of how my health was affected.

Armed with new medical knowledge, eating healthier and a generally more active lifestyle the end of 2012 marked a vast improvement in my health but a major drought in the Media business.

Irelands economics and Media work in general had slowed right down, making income unreliable, infrequent and financially things started to get very shaky.

Throughout christmas and the new year there was no luck in finding work and my motivation was lacking again. We also had a pretty crap christmas, but you would get over that!

Long story short, I kept trying. Handing out cv’s, sending my information to companies and hearing nothing back.

I quickly lost heart.

One morning I woke up to a mail in my inbox from the better half. He  had been up late in the office and noticed a job, working from home for a very legitimate, big name international company doing technical support within the qualification that I had.

I decided to apply in the vague hope something may come of it.

A month goes by and I hear nothing…

Suddenly I get a mail saying that I had been selected for an initial interview. Did that and successfully made it to a second interview and lastly a third. Over the course of about a month, I completed 3 interviews and was told that I would be told shortly afterwards if I had gotten the job or not.

I was so hopeful and a little scared, I wondered if I did the interviews ok as it had been so long since I had done a formal one. I thought would I be able to work a routine job at all?? I found it difficult to work for myself although in this job I wouldn’t have to be running around after bridezillas for over 12 hours!! A month went by and I heard nothing. I thought, yet another opportunity failed and passed me by.

Out of the blue I get a phone call early one morning. I was half asleep and not prepared for it.

“…I am delighted to say congratulations, you have the position. We would like you to be available to start on…”

the rest is a blur! I was both excited and a little terrified at the concept of working for someone else, the ever dreaded question in the back of my mind: Will I be able for this?

One month of fully paid training, fulltime, Monday to Friday 9 – 5:30pm started in June where we had to be trained in on every aspect of the job. There was a class of about 15 of us where we had to complete an exam at the end of each weeks training session. if we did not pass and failed an exam twice, thats it, you do not secure your contract. Some people didn’t do well and couldn’t secure their contract.

It was difficult, interesting and I actually had fun. I am delighted to say I passed all the exams, secured my contract and I am nearly at the end of my 2nd month on the job!

It has been amazing. All my work equipment was provided to my home by the company. I have a set routine to follow and I have found it amazing.

I am motivated, eating well and healthy as I have regularly assigned breaks, before I would go from one end of the day to the other and not eat properly due to a lack of routine.

I keep well hydrated as always and now my days are occupied with doing something other than staring through the screen wasting my life on Facebook if I didn’t have proper work to do!!

The only difficulty I have found so far on the job is how exhausted tired I am when I finish work every day. I know I am just sitting at the computer taking calls and giving tech support but it requires a lot of concentration and interaction on a computer platform, while I am on the phone speaking with people, trying to troubleshoot and resolve an issue and I do find it really wipes me out by the end of shift, especially if someone is being testy at the other end of the phone!

Thankfully though I am working on it. I find it is getting easier, the job, the routine, understanding different accents on the phone!! I am loving it. I have made new friends, and starting a new daily routine really seems to have helped me as a whole. 

Regularity suits me, it suits keeping this illness under control. Routine keeps meds, food, liquid intake and even toilet breaks under control. Keeping up regular exercise however has dropped since I started. Not only have I been really tired after work, but the uncharacteristic heat we have been experiencing over the last few weeks has shut my body down! I have no energy in this heat other than that, getting a new job has been amazing and helps to take my mind off the fact that there may be anything ‘wrong’ in my body or otherwise. I enjoy it, my sleeping pattern has stabilized and loooong may it last! 🙂

So this is my first ‘work’ related post, I have been living it which has been great but reading it may be boring to you, if it is, please let me know what would help. Is there anything specific you would like me to talk about in relation to working with this illness?? if so please let me know 🙂

Thank you for your time in reading this humble bloggy! 🙂