‘A sick bureaucratic monster’ – Department slammed after disability Mobility payments axed

Disability groups have reacted to the Government’s decision to close both the mobility allowance and the motorised transport grant scheme to new applicants.

The decision follows the view expressed by Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly that both schemes were being operated illegally by the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive.

She concluded that their operation contravened the Equal Status Act because they excluded applicants over 66 years.

In a statement last night, Ms O’Reilly said she hoped that the Government’s promised review of the transport needs of people with disabilities would proceed as speedily as possible.

Those currently in receipt of the Mobility Allowance will continue to receive it for another four months.

Ms O’Reilly says it is entirely regrettable that the Department’s failure to tackle these matters in a timely, coherent and rational manner, has now imposed hardship on more than 5,000 people with disabilities who will find their transport needs compromised when the schemes are discontinued.

Disability Federation of Ireland CEO John Dolan said he is “appalled” at the decision to discontinue the the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant scheme.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Dolan said that news of the cut had come “out of the blue”, and compared it to the consultation process that preceded the new agreement on the public service agreement.

“We have here, no consultation, no engagement, out of the blue comes a statement that says people who are living on less than €200 a week, €1,000 a year, with an extra at the max of this scheme, an extra €2,500, will have that taken away, that’s a 20%, an up to 20% cut,” Mr Dolan said.

“This strikes right at the heart of people who are already, like everyone else struggling to make ends meet.”

Mr Dolan said that despite a three year review of the Department of Health’s Disability Services Programme, the Department choose not to review these travel allowances, even though it was aware of the Ombudsman’s concerns that their terms were too narrow.

Mr Dolan was critical of what he called the Department’s “Bart Simpson approach” where he said it seeks to blame others for the decisions it makes which have a negative impact on those with disabilities.

“This Department is a sick bureaucratic monster, if you go back to last August it blamed the Troika for taking €10m out of PA (personal assistant) services for people with disabilities, yesterday and today its blaming the equality legislation and the Ombusdman.

“There is a major issue for a Government that says its beyond Kathleen Lynch and its beyond the Department of Health.

“There’s an issue here for the Government to get to grips with a Department that seems to be coming up with a Bart Simpson approach to everything, its always someone else’s fault that we have to screw people with disabilities to the floor.”

Disability rights campaigner Suzy Byrne described the decision to end the schemes is a disgrace.

She said the decision will hit those on waiting list for the allowances very hard.

4,700 people receive a mobility allowance and 300 receive a motorised transport grant.