NEWS

Cuts in subsidies anger disabled

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.