Double child benefit, free GP care, and SUSI threshold increase will help long Covid sufferer

Double child benefit, free GP care, and SUSI threshold increase will help long Covid sufferer

Doctors' visits are a big cost for Maura Ryan and she is hoping that the expansion of free GP care will benefit her. Picture: Denis Minihane

Each night, Maura Ryan goes through her home, switching off lights and ensuring no lights are left on needlessly.

The Cork city woman is concerned about the rising costs of living, particularly energy costs. She has not been able to work in almost two years as she has long Covid. 

Her family — her husband Roch and their two teenage children, Dylan and Amy — are reliant on Roch’s Defence Forces income. The couple’s son Dylan is starting college this year in Cork but their daughter Amy is hoping to get a place in Tipperary next year. 

This will mean that student accommodation is likely to be a big cost for the family in the near future. They do not qualify for any student grant and both children are working part time.

Maura, from Grange in Douglas, is now hoping that the increase in the threshold to €62,000 for the SUSI education grant could benefit both Dylan and Amy’s education. 

She also welcomes the double child benefit payment announced for November.

“We are middle-income earners so we get no social welfare aside from illness benefit of €134.20 per week," she said. "My medical costs are high — I am seeing consultants regularly.” 

Doctors' visits are a big cost for her and she is hoping that the expansion of free GP care will benefit her.

“I don’t have a medical card so I am still paying doctors, I am still paying consultants,” she said.

“It was not a struggle before Covid.

Having worked in retail for many years, Maura trained as a healthcare assistant in 2016 but cannot work now because of long Covid. She is a patient at the Mercy University Hospital’s Long Covid clinic.

“Our health insurance is costing €141 per month for the four of us and I have switched policies to a cheaper one," she said. "It is cut to the bone. It has hospital cover but that is it.” 

The family was hit hard by the pension levy and the Universal Social Charge imposed in the recession. Maura says: “Anytime we need a quick injection of cash, my husband applies to do overseas trips but that is six months without him.” 

Maura believes that Ireland should be able to force energy companies to charge a standard rate across the board.

“It was not a struggle before Covid.

She explains: “Our last electricity bill was €417 for two months, and that is a summer bill. So I am just dreading the winter. I have cut the gas down by putting it on for just one hour a day to heat the water and that is it. The immersion does not go on.” 

Maura Ryan: 'It was not a struggle before Covid.' Picture: Denis Minihane
Maura Ryan: 'It was not a struggle before Covid.' Picture: Denis Minihane

She welcomes the €600 electricity credit announced in the budget.

“I am going around turning off the switches on everything. I am switching off the switch of the kettle, the toaster. Everything is switched off at night — absolutely everything to try and save something. We got a stove put in two or three years ago and I don’t know how we are going to afford the fuel.” 

She continues: “It was not a struggle before Covid. We were getting through it. Our only saving grace is that we have a great marriage. 

"We are 25 years married. My husband has gotten me through this. He makes me laugh every day. He is a fantastic man. He has dragged me through this.”

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