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Disabled grant aid delays resulting in further suffering for applicants

6 February, 2006

Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has expressed his concern at the undue delay in processing applications for disabled grant aid. The Sinn Féin Office in Dunloy has recently dealt with constituents, who have faced such lengthy delays, that they have passed away before their applications have been dealt with.

Mr McGuigan said:

"The first point of delay for applicants is waiting for the Occupational Therapist's (OTs) visit for assessment which can be up to a year in some cases. The next hold-up is for a referral to the Housing Executive for Grant Aid, followed by yet another waiting period to account for means testing, to see if an applicant qualifies for a grant. Again the wait can be quite lengthy. In many instances it is then passed onto the Housing Organisation FOLD for the tendering process.

"This entire process is clearly much too lengthy, especially given the sometimes terminal conditions of those applying. One example of this is how people are sometimes subjected to the ongoing indignity of a bed-bath as opposed to a shower.

"The red tape involved in disabled grant aid is absolutely enormous. And whilst I welcome the move to direct referrals to OTs by-passing other agencies, from the 1st February, I do not think it goes far enough, especially given the fact that there is an acute shortage of OTs in the first place.

"There is also a similar problem regarding the waiting list to see a rheumatologist in the Causeway Trust Area. The delay for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and associated conditions can be over 2 years.

"If measures were taken to shorten this the condition could be arrested at a much earlier stage as opposed to the patient suffering unnecessarily."ENDS

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