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Students who get Blind Pension to be included in law amending means-testing for PhD scholarships

The law, first brought in last year, aims to remove a barrier for PhD students who are disabled.

Image: Shutterstock/Nirat.pix

A LAW AIMED at helping students maintain disability income support while also receiving a PhD scholarship or bursary has been extended to include the Blind Pension.

Catherine’s Law was introduced last year to exclude income received from a PhD scholarship or bursary in the means testing of a person who gets the weekly Disability Allowance. 

The law has also now been formally expanded to include the Blind Pension. 

The Department of Social Protection said around 1,000 people are in receipt of this support. 

Catherine’s Law was named after PhD student Catherine Gallagher who initially could not accept her PhD at Dublin City University without also losing her disability allowance. 

Gallagher said including the Blind Pension in the exemptions is “objectively good news”. 

“Blind and visually impaired people also incur extra costs like myself, like someone who’s physically disabled,” she told The Journal

But she said the law should also be expanded to include part-time PhD students. 

She said this is “cutting off more people” from pursuing PhDs, particularly as some disabled people do their post-graduate degrees on a part-time basis. 

She said disability payments in general should not be means tested and it creates “far more hassle and harm than it’s worth”. 

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Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said Gallagher “has been inspirational in her advocacy for the rights of persons with a disability”.

It is always important that Government listens carefully to the real life experience of citizens and I am pleased that the issue that Catherine so diligently highlighted has been resolved and PhD students can continue with their scholarships while retaining their Disability Allowance.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said this measure was agreed as part of the Budget. 

“Removing barriers in our education system is vital and I am really pleased to announce this important step today.”

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