‘We need the fuel allowance all year round’: Polio sufferer tells of deep disappointment with budget

Evelyn Wainwright is ‘in terrible pain’ if she gets cold

If Evelyn Wainwright, who contracted polio as a child in the late 1940s, gets cold she is “in terrible pain”. She “can’t get heated up” for long periods as she attempts to get her circulation going.

“So, to eliminate all that, I try to keep it warm. The fact that I am sitting, that I can’t move much – it makes me cold. If I don’t have the heating on most of the time, I get terribly cold.”

Speaking from her home in Togher, Cork City, the widow tells how she contracted polio after a day out in Youghal.

“The following day, when my mother went to dress me, I couldn’t stand. She thought I was tired, but as the day went on I got the temperature and she got the doctor. I was admitted to the fever hospital in Cork, where I spent 10 days. Then I was shipped to Dublin for two and half years, between Cappagh and Baldoyle in hospital. I didn’t come home to Cork until I was five and a half.”


She was “very lucky” she says, as the polio did not affect her lungs, but her left side was impacted and she wore calipers, devices worn to support the legs, to aid with her walking until she was 15. Polio did not impact on her in the intervening years – she worked in textiles, married and reared two daughters. However, in the last four years her mobility has deteriorated.

“I have a powered wheelchair that I can’t do without. I am lucky if I am able to walk as far as my car, which is only 10 steps. I don’t have pain and I don’t have the fatigue [associated with post-polio syndrome], but I lost my husband three years ago, so for the first time, after 54 years married, I am living alone and finding it very difficult to cope with the cost of living.”

Her income is the State pension (€220 a week) and the living alone allowance (€22 a week). She also gets the fuel allowance (€33 a week for 28 weeks between September and April).

Her biggest expense is heating, which she keeps switched on most summers until about July. She had an electricity and gas bill earlier this year of €1,100. “Lucky enough the €200 [energy credit] came in and it came down to €900. I was up the creek thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’.” She took out a loan with her credit union. She also had a €700 bill last winter. “I am dreading the next one, because my heating is on since 1st September.”

Among other expenses are her car, home insurance, phone, bins, wifi, a television package and her ginger tomcat.

“The days of putting a bit aside in savings are gone,” she adds. The €500 in lump sums as a result of Budget 2024 will be a help, as well as the Christmas and January double welfare payments and the €450 energy credits.

“But really, we need the fuel allowance all year round, and a bit more than the €12 on the pension would go some way to help. It’s a nightmare really. It’s a constant struggle.”