I would like to encourage all readers to sign this petition to motivate the Irish government to finally step up their game and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD).
The matter is personally relevant to me and my wife. I am blind, and my wife is in full-time employment. My blindness support is fully means-tested on my wife’s income. In a nutshell:
The more my wife works to support us, the less support funding I get; and
the more my wife works, the more often I cannot avail of her as a driver or assistant, and, as a result, the higher my costs of living are.
This is MY blindness, not hers.
This degrading, demotivating and unfair system is hardly suitable in a 21st-century social state. There are other EU countries which, unlike the Republic of Ireland, have already ratified the UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities, countries where the “blind pension” is not a pension but rather a non-means-tested and non-taxable support payment to compensate higher living costs which blind people evidently have.
The present legislation does not merely deny the existence of blindness-related costs of living but also interferes with the spouses’ fundamental rights under the constitution of the Republic of Ireland.
The right to earn a livelihood
“As a citizen, you have a right to work and to earn a living, whether you are male or female.
The State is under a duty to protect your right to work and earn a livelihood from unjust attack.”
The means test of the spouse’s income is a prime example for an unjust attack on the spouse’s fundamental right to earn a livelihood. The working spouse should be allowed to spend their hard-earned salary whichever way they wish. They should not be held responsible to shoulder costs which are the responsibility of the social state which they already support as tax payers. It has been highlighted that there are other payments, for example, from the Health Service – also means-tested – and tax reliefs.
I can claim a VAT refund on assistive technology such as screenreader software or my laptop with built-in accessibility features, to which I say: Well, yes! Whilst funding is being made available to make houses wheelchair-accessible, and recurring blindness-related costs are ignored, a one-off VAT refund is the least we can expect.
My wife enjoys an income tax relief of €600 per year. This might sound decadent, but it amounts to less than €12 per week, which does not even pay for one return taxi ride per week when my wife is at work and unable to give me a lift.
I furnished ministers Leo Varadkar (Department for Social Protection) and Finian McGrath (Minister of State for Disability Issues) with my thoughts on the present legislation. Here is my follow-up post with some very telling statements.