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Mum can't get disability grant because she's only lost one arm to cancer

By Louise Walsh

A bewildered Meath mum, who chose to amputate her cancer-riddled arm so she could see her kids grow-up, says she can't get a disability grant - because she still has one healthy arm.

Carol Haslam (38) is now calling for an immediate review of the criteria which makes her ineligible for the grant to adapt her car, despite the fact she is an amputee.

The Ratoath resident says that the Primary Medical Certificate is only granted to people who have lost one or both legs or two arms - but doesn't apply if you've only had one arm amputated.

Carol, who is wearing a prosthetic arm since last August, has used her own funds to buy a new car and a further €2,000 to adapt the steering wheel.

Obtaining the Primary Medical Certificate would have saved her the VAT and VRT on a new car or the VAT on the adapting an Irish-sourced vehicle.

Carol was due to get part of her hand amputated after developing a rare form of sarcoma last year - a cancer so rare that she has a better chance of winning the lottery.

However she chose to get most of her lower arm amputated to decrease the chance of the aggressive cancer returning and see her two children grow up.

But the strong willed Ratoath woman was left aghast when she learned of the grant constraints while having to change her car.

"Seriously, I can get the grant if I lose one leg, two legs or two arms but not one arm," she said.

"I'm not trying to be funny but how does that make sense?

"I'm basically being discriminated against because I'm a one upper limb only amputee.

"I had to buy a new car and then spend an extra €2,000 on a piece for my steering wheel that looks like a lollipop but contains all the switches for lights, indicators etc"

In addition to having her arm amputated, Carol had to give up her 11-year old business as a florist because she could no longer work the flowers with one hand.

"I had to give up my beloved job as a florist and then face the added expense of having to adapt a car myself, with no help.

"I don't want to be complaining and I wish I had no use for the grant but I do and it should apply to all amputees, regardless of what limb they lose.

"How can they do it for one and not the other? That just beggers belief.

"The criteria, set down by Revenue in the 80s needs to be changed now. Any decisions on the grant is based on these criteria."

Since her operation, Carol has been devoting her time to her two children Niamh (12) and Daniel (10) and is getting ready to take Daniel on a cross-European trip before he loses his sight.

Daniel, who affectionately calls Carol's arm 'Forest Stump', is losing his eyesight to genetic condition optical atrophy and Carol is doing all she can to help him achieve his bucket list of archaeological sites before he starts seeing shadows.

In the meantime, she is getting used to her prosthetic arm and it is hard.

"Even when driving, you have to push yourself out of the car with your elbows because you've no real balance.

"The sarcoma I had was an evil bitch of a cancer but this law is another bitch for me to face."

In a statement, the Department of Finance said: "The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, payment of a fuel grant, and an exemption from Motor Tax.

"To qualify for the Scheme an applicant must be in possession of a Primary Medical Certificate. To qualify for a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 and satisfy one of the following conditions:

  • be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;
  • be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;
  • be without both hands or without both arms;
  • be without one or both legs;
  • be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;
  • have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

"The Department has no role in the granting of Primary Medical Certificates to any applicant. The PMC is issued by the relevant Senior Medical Officer in the HSE, or failing that an appeal may be made to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeals. The Medical Board of Appeals must be independent in its determinations and so the Department has no influence over the outcome of any appeal.

"The Scheme and qualifying criteria were designed specifically for those with severe physical disabilities and are, therefore, necessarily precise."