Belfast Telegraph

Mobility grants pledge is issued

Health chiefs have vowed to do everything in their power to protect disabled people in fear of losing vital mobility grants.

Dr Ambrose McLoughlin, secretary general of the Department of Health, said officials were working tirelessly to find a solution following a recent Government announcement to scrap two different schemes that benefit 5,000 people.

"It's the determination of our department to do everything we can to ensure that the needs of our clients, that their interests, are protected," Dr McLoughlin said.

"We will do everything we can to find a solution."

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly had ruled last year that the schemes - the motorised transport grant and the mobility allowance - as they stood were illegal as they were not open to over-65s. She asked for them to be expanded.

Despite her recommendations, the Government decided last month to scrap them entirely, saying it could not afford the extra costs of up to 300 million euro.

"The Government came to the conclusion that an extension of either scheme would create extreme pressure on the health budget and would be unsustainable," Dr McLoughlin confirmed to an Oireachtas committee on public oversight and petitions. The possible costs - direct or indirect - of extending these schemes would be unaffordable."

He confirmed that 10.6 million euro allocated to the schemes had been ring-fenced for a replacement allowance.

A "sunset period" was put in place for the mobility allowance - at 208.50 euro per month - meaning people currently receiving the payment will continue to do so for four months.

During that time, Dr McLoughlin said a dedicated review group - consisting of department officials and people representing disability groups - would work to find an alternative.


From Belfast Telegraph