Cuts to Grants for the Handicapped

It’s not only the pensioners, doctors and teachers that are out protesting on the nation’s streets, but also the handicapped, who have seen financial support slashed. There are four million people in Spain who are considered to have a physical or mental handicap to varying degrees and thus receive financial support from the state.

A total of 60 organisations have joined forces to manifest their outrage over these cuts. One mother complained that she had asked for a standard wheelchair in Madrid for her son, Pablo, but was told that she would have to wait a-year-and-a-half or two years for the grant. Pablo suffers from cerebral paralysis.

The largest demonstration was held in front of the Parliament building in Madrid this month, where 50,000 people turned out in support, according to the organizers. Over 300 buses from all over Spain brought the protesters to the march.

These government grant cuts for the handicapped are just a part of a series of cuts to the public health system which have just about killed off the previous Government’s Ley de Dependencias, which envisage financial support for carers of people with physical or mental handicaps because the time spent caring for their charges made it impossible to hold down a job.

For the Chairman of the Comité Español de Personas con Discapacidad (CERMI), Luis Cayo Pérez, poverty is hitting the most vulnerable, so much so that people with a handicap are finding themselves with a 40% increase to acquire the same products and services as a healthy person.

Both the elderly and the infirm have been hard hit by the ‘copago’ system (whereby citizens must now pay a euro per medical prescription) The wife of one man who is paralyzed from the neck down points out that he has to take up to 18 different pills. She also needs some kind of hoist to get her husband into and out of bed, but there is little chance of receiving a grant for that now.

However, the euro-per-prescription contains a maximum limit that a person has to pay, according to their income – people on minimum income or pensions are exempt from any payment. It should also be remembered that citizens on high-income salaries received free medical prescriptions together with low-income families, which is what the Government has attempted to rectify. This is a thorny task because the public health system was envisaged as a universally free service, financed by the social security payments and taxes.

(News: Spain)