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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 6 July, 2020

Living alone, depending on disability allowance

Anne is mother of three adult children. She lives alone and relies on a wheelchair.

Image: Hessam via Flickr/Creative Commons

“I don’t understand why they keep hitting the vulnerable”

Anne Pepper is a 58-year-old mother of three adult children. She lives alone in Tallaght, Dublin, and suffers from post-polio syndrome. Her condition is a progressive illness, stemming from an earlier polio infection that causes joint pain and weakness, and which can eventually lead to muscle atrophy. She relies on a wheelchair.

Anne’s condition means she unable to work – before the Budget, she relied on an income of €203.70 each week (disability allowance of €196  and living alone allowance of €7.70). Her disability allowance was the equivalent of the dole payment for a single, able-bodied person, despite the fact that her condition means she bears greater expenses: for example, Anne explains that she must charge her electric wheelchair for eight hours before it can be used. Due to her limited mobility, she must also keep her house warm at all times.

The Budget has affected every corner of life and everyone – including my children and grandchildren. I have a son who is in receipt of rent allowance and with these cuts he may have to come back to live with me – I would never see a child of mine on the streets. But if he did, I would lose my benefits. My ‘household package’ includes an electricity discount, TV licence and other things too – that would all be taken away.

The four per cent cut to social welfare means Anne’s disability allowance will be cut by €8 per week. Her weekly income will be reduced to €195.70.

Brian Lenihan announced that, because of the recent harsh weather, the government will grant of a once-off extra fuel payment of €40 for those on fuel allowance. The usual weekly fuel allowance is €23, although it is only paid for half the year (Sept – March). However, Anne has to spend €60 – €70 on heating her house every week.

On top of her gas and electricity costs, Anne also has to pay 50c extra for each item of medication she has to buy once she exceeds her €10 monthly allowance. She is also worried about the costs of transport to hospitals.

The last time I asked for help was back when my children were babies [30 years ago]. I called St Vincent De Paul over a week ago to ask for help but I’ve heard nothing back. Not one word… I’ll never ask for help again.

When asked how she will cope, Anne said:

I’ve been staying in bed later into the day to keep warm. I don’t want to end my life like that.

I don’t go out, I don’t drink, I don’t go to bingo – the only socialising I do is with my post-polio survivors group… I just don’t understand why they keep hitting the vulnerable.

Read about how a married person on €55,000 – €75,000 feels about the budget >

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