PARENTS of mentally and physically disabled children - many of whom attend Ceara School - are lobbying to prevent proposed welfare reforms which they believe could bring added hardship to families.
The new Welfare Reform Bill proposes major changes with the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance and introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Parents of children who are profoundly mentally and physically challenged and over the age of 16 say they are very concerned at these proposed changes.
To shrink the number of claimants, everyone on DLA will have a new medical assessment. Nearly two million working-age disabled people will be processed rapidly through what threatens to be a quick check, not by doctors but by a private company and at the huge administrative cost of £675m.
Fiona Rowan who is the Coordinator of the Parents and Friends Group of Ceara School said parents had asked to meet local political representatives to discuss their concerns.
At the meeting was Mayor Carla Lockart, Sinn Fein Cllrs Johnny McGibbon and Tommy O’Connor, Ulster Unionist Cllr Colin McCusker and the SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson.
Fiona revealed that parents group had a meeting recently with Mencap who informed them of the proposed changes.
“We were shocked that our severely learning disabled children were going to be as affected as they appear to be. We know it is only proposals,” however she added they were particularly shocked as the new changes could mean that some of the children will not qualify for the new benefit.
“This is quite frightening because, we were told, if you can pretty much walk you will lose the mobility component,” she said.
“A lot of our children are in wheelchairs or need support walking, some are able to walk but not very far and so far are in receipt of the mobility component which gives them access to a car. If they lose that, they then lose the car and the blue badge and that will have a significant impact on families.
“A lot of our families have given up work to care for their children and young people,” revealed Fiona.
She explained that some older children were currently working two or three days a week.
She gave an example of one young man who works one or two days a week and if the proposed reforms come into play, he may lose tax credits and may have to give up work because he couldn’t survive on that part time wage and he will go back on benefits.
The parents group is to enlist the help of local councillors to make contact with members of relevant committees at Stormont to relay their concerns.
“We are only a small group of parents,” said Fiona.
“Out in the community information on this is so scarce. And because they are proposals, we are not sure if and when it is going to happen. It’s all very uncertain for families who are striving to keep themselves together, caring for their children and young people. Adding to this the financial pressure hanging over them, it’s not much fun,” she said.
Are you a parent whose child goes to Ceara? Text your views to 84555, starting your message with LMCOMMENT.