Tuesday 8th October, National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is disappointed that despite Budget 2020 prioritising vulnerable people, the measures to help those who are blind or vision impaired to live more independently were not delivered.
Chris White, NCBI CEO said, “it would have cost just €70,000 to extend the free travel scheme to the 700 service users who have a long-term eye condition but who do not fulfil registration as “blind” and yet do not have sufficient vision to drive. The Free Travel Pass is hugely beneficial to those who can avail of it but the eligibility criteria is so very restrictive and some people with sight loss are losing out which hampers their independence.”
Likewise, the employment opportunities for people who are blind or vision impaired are again restricted due to the failure to invest further in the Workplace Adaptation Grant. Access to assistive technology enables blind or vision impaired qualified candidates do a job the same as a sighted person. More employers should be made aware of and have access to this Grant.
On a positive note, the NCBI welcomes the additional funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund from €75m to €100m, which will help to alleviate long and unnecessary hospital waiting lists for eye conditions.
Chris White added “Ophthalmic services are now the fourth longest waiting list of any specialty, with over 43,000 people waiting for assessments and treatments. Timely intervention to prevent avoidable blindness is crucial so a prompt reduction in this waiting list is much needed”.