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Burton accused of 'sleveen' move in axing diet supplement payment

Joan Burton says the Diet Supplement Scheme is no longer needed because specialists foods are more freely available.

Image: Gluten Free via Shutterstock

THE SOCIAL PROTECTION Minister today defended a government decision to close the Diet Supplement Scheme.

The scheme pays a small social welfare top-up to people who have specific dietary requirement such as coeliac disease, lactose intolerance or a diet medically prescribed by a doctor.

The scheme costs around €3.5 million a year and has 5,900 claimants.

Joan Burton today told the Dáil that the scheme had been closed to new applicants because of the free availability of specialist foods, such as gluten-free bread.

Burton said that those on the scheme currently will be unaffected, but those who applied from 1 February will not be able to take up the scheme.

Burton said that the number of people on the scheme had been falling, as had the cost, and that 75% of those claiming on the scheme were in receipt of either old-age pensions or disability payments.

Both Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea and Sinn Féin’s Aengus O’Snodaigh raised questions on the issue in the Dáil today, with both warning that the move would bring “hardship” on people.

O’Snodaigh said the move had been brought about in a quiet and “sleveen” manner, saying that the contention that specialist food was available and cheap was wrong.

He said that he had visited a Tesco where gluten-free pasta cost five times what regular pasta cost. He said that a nutrition study found that gluten-free diets can be 33% more expensive.

“The Minister should have a heart. She should show some compassion for people who find themselves in dire financial straits while also living with these conditions.

“She should reverse this callous decision and re-open the Diet Supplement Scheme.”

Read: This formula has the potential to change what the world considers to be “food”

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