Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on Minister Joan Burton to re-open the Diet Supplement Scheme.
Deputy O’Snodaigh made the call as he questioned the Minister on her decision to close the scheme to new applicants as of February 1st of this year.
The scheme is a social welfare top-up for people who have specific dietary requirements as prescribed by a hospital consultant.
Speaking following the exchange in Dáil, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:
“This is a quietly carried out attack on poor people living with conditions that can inflate the cost of their diets. It is an additional cost that can push people over the poverty line.
“For many the supplement was the difference between keeping their heads above water and sinking in the pool of austerity for which the government and Fianna Fáil are responsible.
“You have closed the scheme which means that there is zero support for people on low incomes living with these conditions.
“Your closure of the scheme creates a potential poverty trap for those affected.
“Currently recipients will not be immediately affected, however should they move off social welfare, subsequently lose their jobs, they will not be able to regain this vital supplement. It is a payment which makes such a difference to the household budgets of recipients.
“Additionally, people on low incomes cannot avail of tax reliefs, such as the one on gluten free foods, available to those on higher incomes.
“You commissioned the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Report which confirmed that the cost of a gluten free diet can be 33% more expensive than a typical healthy diet and that the cost of a liquidised diet can be 26% more expensive than a typical healthy diet.
“What the Minister should have done is adjust the diet supplement scheme payment rates in light of inflation and additional financial burdens.
“Instead, in a ruthless move, she closed the scheme and abandoned these vulnerable people to the prospect of poverty.
“But then that has been the hallmark of Joan Burton time as Minister for Social Persecution.
“The Minister should have a heart. She should show some compassion for people who find themselves in dire financial straits while also living with these conditions.
“She should reverse this callous decision and re-open the Diet Supplement Scheme.”
Notes to Editors:
Interesting points from INDI Report
“Large discount stores have a significant listing of products in the coeliac society foods listing book but during this study we found inconsistency in availability in these stores.”
“Trying to follow the principles of a specialised diet is difficult and often there is limited variety. It may be necessary for individuals to find and travel to larger shops or other areas in order to complete the ingredient list for a diet. This can have a major financial impact due to the additional costs involved.”
“Typically when purchasing for a specialised diet, one is not able to take advantage of in store offers for foods, as these are unsuitable for the diet in question.”
Current prices of gluten free versus standard staples
Deputy Ó Snodaigh compiled these prices compiled from Tesco
Tesco Everyday Value Penne pasta 47c for 500g
Tesco Free From Gluten Penne Pasta €2.50 for 500g
Gluten free pasta is more than 5 times the price of standard pasta
Brennans wholegrain sliced pan €1.87 for 800g (23c per 100g)
Genius Brown Free From Bread €3.29 for 400g (82c per 100g)
Gluten free bread is three and a half times the price of standard bread
Kellogs Cornflakes €3.50 for 1KG (35c for 100g)
Kelkin Gluten Free Cornflakes €3.19 for 375g (85c for 100g)
Gluten free cornflakes are two and a half times the price of standard cornflakes
Gluten free multi-seed crackers €3.99 for 110g (€3.62 per 100g)
Ryvita multi-seed thins €2.39 for 125g (€1.91 per 100g)
Gluten free crackers are almost twice the price of standard crackers