Govt scraps allowance for people with special dietary needs

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton

The Government is scrapping a welfare allowance for people who need special diets for medical reasons.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is ending an allowance to help cover the costs of gluten-free and other special foods.

The Diet Supplement Scheme has been closed to new applicants as of February 1.

Minister Burton said people with coeliac disease no longer have to go shopping in pharmacies in order to get their special foods.

She added that ost people on social welfare can now afford to buy gluten-free foods in bigger supermarkets, without needing extra money.

"The more specialised the diet, for example gluten-free, the more the individual is required to frequent the larger stores in order to be able to purchase the necessary foods," she said.

"The research showed that the average costs across all of the retail outlets of the diet supplemented under the scheme can be met from within one-third of the minimum personal rate of Social Welfare payment."

However the decision to close the scheme was criticised by Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh, who described it as "a ruthless move".

“This is a quietly carried out attack on poor people living with conditions that can inflate the cost of their diets," Deputy Ó Snodaigh said in the Dáil.

"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."

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