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Bandon man feels he’s under ‘house arrest’ and can’t leave his own home

December 14th, 2021 11:45 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Sen Lombard has raised Rafal Kolibowski’s plight.

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THE lack of personal transport grants for people with disabilities has effectively placed one man from Bandon under house arrest, according to Senator Tim Lombard.

The Fine Gael public representative raised the issue with the Green Party Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD in the Seanad claiming that one of his constituents, who has motor neuron disease, feels abandoned by the State.

He said the man, as well as his wife, who is his full-time carer, and their two young children, are severely restricted because they do not own a specially adapted vehicle.

Rafal Kolibowski (44) of 16 Oaklawn, Castle Road, spoke to The Southern Star about his situation saying he has not been anywhere outside of Bandon this year.

He said they, as a family, have a 2008 Peugeot, which is not suitable to transport him and the electric wheelchair he needs in order to function.

Rafal said he has not had the opportunity to go to the seaside, the cinema, or simply shopping, and that a grant would allow him to buy a car suitable for his needs.

He said his wheelchair was donated by a charity and usually the same charity takes him to his hospital appointments, but this year they have not had the funds so he has missed medical appointments too due to the lack of transport.

Under the support system, he said the grant is only awarded after the car is purchased and they do not have the means to buy such a vehicle. A fact, he said, that renders the scheme ‘meaningless.’

Rafal said he was first diagnosed 10 years ago and believes access to transport is a matter of ‘human dignity’ and that without his wife’s help – to dress, eat, use the toilet, everything – he is helpless.

Rafal also thanked Senator Tim Lombard saying, ‘He is the first politician to take an interest in this matter.’

The senator’s remarks were timely because the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall recently found the personal transport supports for people with disabilities to be ‘inadequate, unfair and inequitable.’

Senator Lombard said it’s a double whammy for people living in remote rural areas who depend on having a specially adapted vehicle to be able to get around.

In 2013, Senator Lombard said the Motorised Transport Grant and Mobility Allowance grant scheme – which can provide up to €5,000 in grant support – was abolished on the basis that a new scheme would be put in place.

‘But,’ he said, ‘that hasn’t materialised and the quality of people’s lives have been severely impacted as a result.’

In the case of his constituent, he said the man is effectively ‘trapped in his own home without the ability to go anywhere.’

Calling for urgent action, Senator Lombard said failure to respond would mean the Government had ‘failed the most vulnerable people in society.’

Meanwhile, on Friday December 3rd – International Day for People with Disabilities – the Government announced funding of €8m for the upgrading and improvement of the transport options for HSE funded organisations.

Senator Lombard said this initiative is targeted at organisations funded under Health Acts, who provide residential or respite services to people with disabilities, and will ‘do nothing to help individuals struggling to make their way in rural Ireland.’

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