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.

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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 🙂

Informative Disability Links in Ireland

Sorry about the delay in updating recently, I have just been lazy to be honest!
I found a comfy place on the sofa and usually hibernate down in the sitting room away from the computer now, choosing to use the phone or the iPad and I hate blogging on anything other than a proper keyboard, thing is I have lost all motivation as a result of this  so I decided to kick my own but into action today, and here we are! 

This is me, bursting with motivation…

yeah, right! :p

I wanted to update you on what is going on during this, what I can only call; Process of transition! as there may be people out there that may find themselves in the same situation as me, having to now use a wheelchair or living with any disability and not knowing how to adjust or how to go about getting the information that they have rights to and deserve. So, if I am living the experience, let me share it and help those who may not know what to do or where to go for these things.

This thing came out of nowhere for me, took a little while to get my head around and once my husband and I got our heads around the new situation we find ourselves in and the fact that I have a research based background, I went about doing exactly that, researching the poop out of everything got to do with our new situation and how we could adjust.

Here I highlight some links I found full of information regarding a new disability, just click on the blue words to be taken directly to the sites I am talking about. 

Image

Firstly, DONT PANIC! You will get through this, there are supports, family, friends, doctors, there are ways and means of finding out information, just dont be afraid to google information (all site links I have given here are legally legit! be careful what you find and read online, be sure they are from legitimate sources.) /Or if you are not interweb savvy then RING or JUST ASK! Do not be afraid to ring your doctor for help, my doctor has been great to share any infrmation he knows or finds.  Call places like Enable Ireland, other disability centers or even Citizens advice or social welfare regarding financial help and legal entitlements, if needed. These places are here to provide you with information, use them.

I have a friend who has been in a chair all her life and she was a wealth of information to me, she also wrote a book about her experience too, so be sure to check it out, It is called Dont Tell Me I Cant, by Leigh Gath  🙂 Cheers muchly, Leigh 🙂 

I started out my personal research by reading about actually having a new disability, methods of coping or managing in this new situation. I openly spoke about how I felt on forums and took advise from other peoples experiences living within Ireland,  knowing you are not alone can help hugely and I found EDS Awareness Ireland a huge help, Thanks folks, please be sure to check out their page HERE 🙂 

The first main obstacle I came up against was getting myself a wheelchair or a device to help transport myself. This is not automatically given to you via your Doctor or hospital, so the first thing I did was ring the Irish Patients’ Association who are fantastic on giving advice to anyone who is a patient, either publicly or privately in Ireland. They are also fantastic to discuss problems with treatment within the health system, so if you feel something is not going correctly with treatment or if you have or are being treated inappropriately  talk to them.

From here I was led to Assist Ireland.ie and The Irish Wheelchair Association which provide lots of information about the types of mobility devices, aids and entitlements you can get and how to go about getting them both publicly through the HSE and privately if desired. Also information on Disabled parking permit and other entitlements and services.

Ring your local health nurse, which will usually lead onto a referral to an Occupational Therapist and or Physio and perhaps to a local Social Welfare officer to help financially or to apply for any benefits. This is a great start to get the ball rolling locally within your home, community and your immediate change of circumstance. 

Remember, there are supports and help, just dont be afraid to look and ask for these things 🙂 I hope some of these links can help you too 🙂 

The news with myself recently is just trying to adjust to this new lifestyle. We are having regular visits from the Occupational Therapist and sometime in the next couple of weeks a motorised wheelchair will arrive, allowing me to get out and about more, locally, without self propelling or the Hubby having to push me, it would be nice not to have to talk to someone behind me all the time while out for a roll!! 🙂 

How cool would this be? Click on the image to read the story behind the photo

As of yet, I dont know what kind it is, or if it is going to be any way portable, so for now all we know is that I will be working between the 2 chairs as they are deemed appropriate. 

I have begun my Physio in my local health center, which is great, but slow! I have a specialist letter to state that regular physio is not advised for me as it may aggravate the joints, muscles and pain even more and so pool therapy is recommended about 3 or 4 times a week for me. He is looking into where he can get me in for pool therapy as they do not facilitate it directly at the local health center so it may take weeks or months to start properly.

He has ordered a walker with arm rests for me to practice just standing straight up out of the chair as he thinks my legs are not ready for the pool yet and that getting me to stand even for just a few minutes a day will help maintain some bone strength, muscle tone and even help digestion. So until my own walker, measured to my size, arrives, he has lent me one to practice in the meantime. I am doing that when I am able, cant say I am seeing any progress yet but it is early days yet!

Other than that, I have my Rhumy appointment at the end of this month, expecting the zoomy chair in the next week, hopefully and noticing that my arms, chest and latisimus muscles have become very solid!!! Even in this short time. I definitely feel stronger in my upper body and I have even stopped napping during the day like I used to, all the time! It feels good, I do feel it will be super easy to put on weight in the chair though, so I have to watch that. 

…with a sweety and ice-cream obsession, thats gonna take time! :p