Cuts in sub­si­dies anger dis­abled

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A de­ci­sion that would have led to some dis­abled peo­ple hav­ing to pay more for wheel­chairs and pros­thetic limbs as a re­sult of pub­lic spend­ing cuts has been de­layed for a few days in or­der to al­low gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to hold talks with unions rep­re­sent­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

A num­ber of dis­abled peo­ple staged a protest this week at the of­fices of the IKA so­cial se­cu­rity fund, Greece’s largest, af­ter it emerged that the gov­ern­ment had or­dered the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s man­agers to slash by 50 per­cent the amount that IKA con­trib­utes to­ward the pur­chase of a range of equip­ment needed by those suf­fer­ing from dis­abil­i­ties.

The main union rep­re­sent­ing the dis­abled, ESAMEA, la­beled the move as un­fair, ar­gu­ing that it would make life even more dif­fi­cult for its mem­bers, who of­ten earn low wages or are unem­ployed.

IKA’s chief Rover­tos Spy­ropou­los said that he had or­dered the re­duc­tion in state sub­si­dies as part of a wider strat­egy that will lead to the over­all price of equip­ment de­creas­ing. He said that tighter con­trols on the prices at which equip­ment are bought by IKA would lead to them be­ing cheaper for dis­abled peo­ple to buy, de­spite the re­duc­tion in fund­ing.

How­ever, Spy­ropou­los ap­pears to have failed to con­vince dis­abled peo­ple that they will not be se­ri­ously af­fected by the change. In a bid to reach com­mon ground with ESAMEA, the IKA di­rec­tor said he would put off the fund­ing cuts un­til July 1.

“Even if IKA, acting un­der pres­sure, ac­cepts to re­duce its sub­si­dies by 30 per­cent rather than 50 per­cent, who will re­as­sure us that it will not un­of­fi­cially de­lay pay­ments or refuse to make them at all?” the dis­abled.gr web­site, an on­line ver­sion of a mag­a­zine for dis­abled peo­ple, ar­gued.

Roughly 10 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is classed as dis­abled in Greece, where the fa­cil­i­ties for peo­ple with phys­i­cal hand­i­caps are se­verely lim­ited. “How are para­plegic and quad­ri­plegic peo­ple sup­posed to re­act [to the IKA cuts] when all the cities are im­pos­si­ble to tra­verse and the ma­jor­ity of build­ings where so­cial se­cu­rity funds are housed are in­ac­ces­si­ble,” said dis­abled.gr.

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