Disabled forced to pick fuel or food

People with a disability are skipping meals, cutting back on heating, and going without medicine due to financial struggles.

A survey of more than 300 people, carried out by the Rehab Group, showed some respondents said they had to choose between food and fuel as they could not afford both.

One reason cited by a number of respondents for their straitened financial situation was the difficulty in surviving on a weekly disability allowance of €198.

According to the survey, 73% of respondents said they are dependent on others for their living arrangements, yet more than 63% said they would prefer to live independently.

While 70% of those questioned said money was the biggest obstacle to independence, 30% said a lack of suitable accommodation was the reason, and 13% cited an insufficient number of personal assistance hours.

Some 20% of respondents said they had difficulties finding suitable accommodation over the last two years, while some have been waiting up to 15 years to be housed.

Over 40% of those surveyed said they spend between €11 and €90 a week on transport; almost half of those questioned said transport “always” or “usually” limited their independence, contravening the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure the personal mobility of people with disabilities.

While 90% of those surveyed said they were not in receipt of a mobility allowance, 60% said they needed it.

Various studies have shown that having a disability can lead to a greater risk of poverty, including a lack of employment opportunities. 

Some 70% of respondents to the Rehab survey said they do not have a job, while two thirds of those seeking employment claimed employers overlook them and were unwilling to provide them with necessary supports.

The Rehab Group has called for an increase of €20 in the disability allowance, as well as an automatic entitlement to a medical card and an end to prescription charges.

Its director of communications, public affairs, and fundraising, Kathleen O’Meara, said the Government was “selectively blind to the true cost of disability in Ireland”.

“A joint Oireachtas committee reported last month the average cost of living with a disability is more than €200 weekly — and this is before you even begin to include hourly fees charged by personal assistants.

“The way out of poverty for many people with a disability is through employment,” she said, adding that the Government and employers need to provide the supports to allow people with disabilities to work.”

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