The Social Work Action Network (Ireland) strongly condemns the Irish government’s recent decision to stop the crucial Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant schemes. This sudden decision was made on foot of a two year warning the Ombudsman Emily Reilly had given the government. She had advised the government that the schemes as they stood were in breach of equality legislation as they weren’t available to people over 66 years of age.
Instead of adhering to Ms. Reilly’s recommendations under equality legislation to extend the scheme to include those previously discriminated against and instead of adhering to various human rights charters such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, to which Ireland are signatories and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (which Ireland has yet to ratify*), Kathleen Lynch, the minister with responsibility for equality, older person and mental health stated, “The facts are that if we keep this scheme going as it now exists it will be opened to everyone over 65 and who within the Disability Act is defined as having a disability, we cannot afford that” (emphasis added), as the prime reason to abandon the scheme altogether.
The government’s decision has effectively left thousands of people with disabilities (approximately 5,000) without a vital allowance that supports them to live independently in their communities and to have access to a standard of life one might reasonably expect while living in a supposedly “civilised” society.
As social workers, social care workers and others working in the caring professions who work from an ethos of social justice and challenging oppressive practices in society, we in SWAN Ireland cannot stand quietly by and watch as the social fabric of our society is torn apart piece by piece by a government who’s priorities are clearly “money first, people last”.
This is just one example of a continued attack on the marginalised, vulnerable and oppressed in Irish society. In 2011 and 2012 there were countless examples of the state choosing to vilify certain groups of people and to cut back on necessary social safety nets, for example, cuts to lone parents allowances, attempted cuts to personal assistants for people with disabilities and continued attempts to cut home care and home help supports, to name a few.
For the past year, SWAN Ireland has been involved in supporting and working with many of the groups being targeted by government cuts. We will continue to work alongside these groups to fight back against the growing tide of these cuts. We will continue to work towards a society that has egalitarian ideals at its core. We will continue to stand in solidarity with every person detrimentally effected by continued austerity and growing cuts to services.
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*Updated on 03/02/2013