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Lottides finds welfare rules for disabled pensioners ‘worrying’

Human Rights Commissioner Maria Stylianou Lottides on Tuesday called for more measures to ensure an acceptable standard of living for pensioners with disabilities.

In her latest report, Lottides said she received a complaint made by a man on behalf of his mother, regarding both the interruption in the granting of the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), and the interruption in the provision of the disability allowance she was entitled to.  

The commissioner explained that the termination of the benefits in question took place after an increase in the complainant’s widow’s pension, as the revised amount exceeds the minimum living allowance of the beneficiary. 

She added that following her investigation, and based on the relevant legislation, a person with a disability cannot receive a disability allowance, unless they are entitled to GMI.  

“My office’s experience through the examination of related complaints has shown that this often creates serious social injustices and distortions in relation to the state’s obligation to compensate all persons with disabilities for the obstacles they experience, in connection to their disability,” she said. 

The commissioner said that the aim of her report is to focus on a particular vulnerable group of GMI and disability allowance beneficiaries who also happen to be pensioners, since changes in the amount of the latter may ultimately affect the rest of the benefits they receive.  

In this case, the complainant is an elderly person with a disability, who also faces serious financial problems and who previously relied on the benefits in question to ensure a minimum level of decent living and to remain marginally, it seems, above the poverty line, Lottides said. 

“As such, the financial hardship that the termination or reduction of these benefits may cause to an already vulnerable individual is undeniable, and by extension the continued provision of adequate socio-economic support by government agencies is of the utmost importance,” she stressed. 

Lottides said that from the evidence put before her, it is clear that before the increase in her widow’s pension, the complainant received the monthly amount of €848.98, which was reduced to €791.57 following the chain reaction triggered by the increase in her widow’s pension.  

The commissioner stressed that she considers this development extremely worrying, both in this particular case and in any other similar one, “when elderly people with mobility issues or other forms of disability who rely on support and assistance from the state, instead of seeing an improvement in their living conditions, are pushed, due to a legislative loophole, below the poverty line”. 

To remedy this she recommended a more comprehensive re-evaluation of the functionality of the relevant legislation, and the disconnection of disability from the GMI, suggesting that in cases such as the complainant’s, where a GMI and disability allowance recipient sees an increase in pension that may trigger cuts in their benefits, calculations should be made in advance to avoid any cuts. 

She also recommended that measures be taken so that, if by increasing any amount – like a pension – subsequent cuts in benefits put the beneficiary in a worse position than they were in before the increase, automatic deductions are not taken and their case is examined individually instead. 

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