A wheelchair user has pleaded with the Government to make the Disability Allowance a universal payment as she contemplates having it reduced after she marries.
Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird met her fiance Andy in college and the pair recently got engaged.
What would otherwise be a uniquely happy occasion has been clouded by the fear that there will be a “serious reduction” in her Disability Allowance once she weds.
“When a person on Disability Allowance gets married - or even cohabits with a partner - they risk losing their Disability Allowance and even their medical card because household income is grouped together between the two partners,” Ms Ní Hoireabhaird told Lunchtime Live.
“The partner on Disability Allowance is not viewed individually, so we lose our benefits.”
Ms Ní Hoireabhaird has Friedreich’s Ataxia and was diagnosed with the condition when she was a teenager.
It is progressive - which means her symptoms get worse over time.
“Over time, I’ve gone from walking normally to using a wheelchair and I really can’t say what the future holds for me,” she said.
“I’m in a wheelchair at the moment and things like my muscle usage, my hands, my energy, my stamina are affected - all sorts of things.”
'A huge help'
The Disability Allowance in Ireland is set at a maximum of €220 per week and Ms Ní Hoireabhaird said it has been a “huge help to me personally” over the years.
“I would use it mainly for transport because public transport in this country - as you’ve probably heard - is not perfect,” she said.
“So, having the availability of money to use [for] taxis and other such means to travel around is very helpful to me but not only that, different medicines and medical equipment can be paid for with this.
“Some people use it to pay for care hours - if they require a personal assistant.”
Ms Ní Hoireabhaird dislikes the perception that the allowance is “extra income” when for so many disabled people it is essential for them to survive.
The Government is unveil the budget next month and Ms Ní Hoireabhaird hopes the means testing for the payment will be abolished.
“The Government has a chance in the upcoming budget to really take a look at this and make a change,” she said.
“Disability Allowance should be universal and on a non-means tested system because this is just essential; the allowance helps us survive.”
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