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The car is my legs

Off the fence
“What are they going to do next?”

Off the fence
Tom Chambers

I was genuinely shocked when I found out that this Government had made a decision to end the mobility allowance and motorised transport grant.
I have been confined to a wheelchair since 1982 following a traffic accident and have a specially adapted car which allows me to travel independently. I now feel that the scrapping of the grants will take disabled people’s independence away and lead to the increased institutionalisation of disabled people.
The car is my legs. You need the car if you want to go socialising and meet people. You won’t go far on €50 a week now. With the allowance I could go out and have a life. I could decide if I wanted to go to the pictures, go shopping even go to Mass, ordinary everyday life. It is ordinary everyday life which is affected that you took for granted before these cuts.
A lot of people including myself bought the car on the strength of getting the mobility allowance and the grant. If they are living along they won’t be able to afford it. They said they are going to replace it but I can guarantee you they will not replace it with anything better. People are well and truly afraid of these cutbacks. At night if it is cold I would put a jumper on me instead of putting on the heat.
We were out in Strasbourg in 2009, President Barroso gave a commitment that by 2020 all the institutions will be closed down in Ireland. If they carry on with the cutbacks that are going on, there will be plenty of them here and they will be opening more. People won’t be able to live.
Last June, I was in Dublin for the launch a research paper by the National Disability Authority on how people with disabilities were being treated by the public. Minister Brendan Howlin gave a speech in which he said he  was disheartened to learn that attitudes to people with disabilities had actually deteriorated and that public service bodies had a responsibility to deliver services better to customers with disabilities.
Now he and his fellow Government members are coming around and committing a bigger sin themselves. What are they going to do next? In the last few years the Government started to chop grants and they have kept chopping. We used to get two weeks Christmas bonus which was cut to €100, we were entitled to €300 heating oil a year and now that is €200, the ESB grant has been cut. It is not just one item, the cuts have affected a lot of things.
They say they are going go give us some other thing but why keep people in suspense. I don’t think they are being honest with us. Does it mean we will have to spend a couple of more nights outside the Dáil like we did last September? I do hope Enda Kenny sees sense and this awful decision is reversed.

Tom Chamber
s is a grant recipient and disability campaigner from Newport.