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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 14

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Blind Pensioners.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare if having regard to the considerably higher living costs of blind persons he will introduce a scheme to pay a special handicap allowance to such persons irrespective of means; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total number of blind pensioners; the annual cost of blind persons' pensions; the increased cost if the means test were (a) abolished and (b) not applied where annual income did not exceed £1,200; and if he will sympathetically consider the request of the National League of the Blind of Ireland for an easing of the means test applicable to blind pensions.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to answer Question Nos. 19 and 20 together.

The number of blind pensions in payment is approximately 6,000 and the annual cost is about £900,000. Eligibility for blind pension can be determined only by examination of each applicant's means and ophthalmic condition, and consequently an accurate estimate of the cost of abolishing or modifying the means test cannot readily be given.

Payment of a handicap allowance to blind persons or further modification of the means test in their case is not contemplated at present.

Would the Minister give sympathetic consideration to the fact that blind people are unable to perform many services for themselves which less handicapped people are able to perform such as repairing and decorating their own houses, looking after their gardens, repairing their clothes and so on? Because of their handicap, perhaps, they have greater wear and tear on their property and clothes than other people. Having regard to these peculiarly difficult problems that blind people must face, would the Minister give sympathetic consideration to the granting of a flat allowance to blind people commensurate with the increased costs they have to meet for these items?

I have been examining that problem for some time past in the context of a general examination of the social welfare code but I had not contemplated anything in the nature of what the Deputy suggests by way of alleviation of the means test or other extra allowance. Many recipients of blind pensions are only partially blind. One need only prove that he is unable to continue his ordinary occupation to qualify. They are not all persons who are unable to carry out any work for which eyesight is essential, which is the other qualification. The means test is less stringent than that for old age pensioners or other pensioners. Overall I think that only a very small percentage of those applying for blind pensions are disallowed on means.

The Minister is not closing the door, I hope?

No, never, I hope.