Annual grants of up to €500 towards the cost of wigs or hairpieces for people suffering hair loss through illness will be available from the end of May next year.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys announced the grant in Budget 2022 last month, but she confirmed in the Dáil on Thursday that recipients will be able to avail of the provision every calendar year.
But she stressed that the new annual benefit “will only be available in respect of hair loss due to a disease and not due to ageing or other natural causes”.
Ms Humphreys said “hair loss is a common issue that can be caused by a variety of medical conditions including autoimmune disease such as alopecia or systemic conditions like cancer.
“I recognise the physical impact but also the psychological impact that sudden hair loss can have on a person’s life, and I hope this new grant will contribute to improving the quality of life of those who need it.”
During Dáil Social Protection question time she confirmed to Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins that “a grant of up to €500 will be available once every calendar year to support people to purchase a wig or hairpiece.
“It will be available from the end of May 2022” and will be underpinned legislatively through the Social Welfare Bill due in the Dáil “in the coming weeks”.
Ms Higgins, welcoming confirmation of the grant, said “it’s really good news for people who suffer from alopecia or who have experienced hair loss due to cancer treatment”.
She was also “particularly pleased” that it will be available on an annual basis. Wigs generally last for up to a year.
The Dublin Mid-West TD said the grant would probably cover half or a third of the cost “because a lot of wigs are between €1,000 and €1,500”. It “is going to be hugely beneficial to and it will improve people’s quality of life”, she added.
“Some people might think it’s a bit of a trivial issue,” she said but added it was of major significance “for an awful lot of men and women who take such pride and confidence in their hair.
“And your hair as they say in the adverts is often your crown, and when that’s taken away from you or it falls out or has to be shaved it adds further to the trauma you’re already experiencing through illness.”
The treatment benefit scheme – which will now include wigs and hairpieces – applies to dental, optical or hearing services. It is available to insured workers, self employed and retired people who have the required number of PRSI contributions. It’s also available to a dependant spouse or partner.
Currently medical card holders with alopecia can access a grant of up to around €440, but those without the card do not receive financial support in purchasing a wig, and most insurance companies do not cover wig costs for alopecia.