Working for People with Sight Loss

Widespread regional variations of HSE payment placing blind people at unnecessary financial hardship

Tuesday April 7th 2020, the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland) is calling on the HSE to make the payment of the Blind Welfare Allowance available by bank transfer in light of the COVID2019 pandemic.

The Blind Welfare Allowance (BWA) is a monthly means-tested payment of up to €240 for a single person who is blind or visually impaired or €480 for a blind couple. It is mainly issued by cheque by local HSE offices.  The NCBI has recently learnt of some local HSE offices being unwilling to make this payment by bank transfer, which is placing thousands of people who are blind and vision-impaired at unnecessary risk and financial hardship across the country.

Kevin Kelly, NCBI Head of Advocacy said “through calls received to our national helpline it is clear there is a strong regional variation within the HSE in their willingness to pay the BWA electronically. Some HSE offices are offering to pay the payment automatically by electronic bank transfer, while others in the Mid-West and North West are reluctantly offering to switch to electronic payment. Unfortunately, HSE offices in the South East are refusing to pay the BWA electronically. This is both outdated and completely unacceptable, particularly given that we are in the midst of a national health emergency.  Many of those who are in receipt of this payment rely on this income to meet their basic needs.”

“The public health advice from the HSE is to stay indoors to slow the spread of COVID2019, yet another division within the HSE is failing to support this. Subsequently, it means some blind and vision-impaired people are left with no choice but to go out to the bank to access these vital funds thereby putting themselves at unnecessary risk, whilst others are opting not to go out to cash their cheques, placing them in financial distress,” added Kelly.

NCBI is calling on the HSE nationally to instruct every local office to immediately grant those in receipt of BWA the option to have their payment made electronically.  It is feasible as it is already operational in some areas. It is time internal local HSE bureaucracy is overhauled.

ENDS

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact June Tinsley NCBI 01 8821917/ 087 9955076