Fighting Blindness welcomes the increase of €5 per week to the Blind Pension and the increase in the Christmas Bonus which were announced as part of Budget 2017. However we are disappointed that the increase to the Blind Pension will not take effect and have an impact for people until March 2017. The Christmas bonus paid to welfare recipients, including people receiving blind pension, will increase from 75% of the weekly payment to 85% this Christmas.
Blind Pension is a means-tested payment for people who are blind or vision impaired. You will find more information about the payment and how to apply on the Citizens information website here.
It was also announced in Budget 2017 that funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund will increase, from €5 million to €20 million, for an initiative to address waiting lists, targeted at those who have been waiting longest. Waiting lists for ophthalmology are among the longest of any speciality and so we welcome this announcement. However we await further details on how this funding will be implemented.
The number of people on ophthalmology waiting lists as of September 29, 2016 is outlined below.
Some 13,083 people are on the Inpatient/Day Case waiting list, this is the largest number of any speciality in the country. Over 3,400 people on this list have been waiting more than a year.
On the outpatient waiting list, 31,497 people are currently on the list and 6,314 of these have been waiting for more than a year.
Optical benefit under the Treatment Benefit Scheme will be expanded to include the option of either free glasses or a contribution of €42 towards the cost of glasses. Optical benefit already includes a free eye test if you have the required number of PRSI contributions. You will find more information on the Citizens Information website here. It is important to have an eye test every two years to monitor your eye health. If you are over the age of 50 you should have an eye test every year as you are at greater risk of developing conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. If you have diabetes you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and should register with the free National Diabetic RetinaScreen screening programme, full details at www.diabeticretinascreen.ie.