Hundreds of elderly and handicapped people gathered outside parliament Monday, protesting what they said were government plans to cut state funding for their care. More than 500 people took part in the rally, many in wheelchairs, during which they gave a petition with over 22,000 signatures to Social Affairs Minister Kinga Goncz.
The petition said the quality of life of the elderly, handicapped people and others could deteriorate greatly if state funds used for their care were to be cut, the AP says.
Protesters, with signs like "The security of almost 3 million pensioners is at stake" and "Dignity at old age is no luxury", said that despite a government pledge to increase aid for institutions caring for them, many could be forced to close down in 2006 because of insufficient funds.
Goncz, who was present to receive the petition, said the protest was unnecessary because the government had recently earmarked 5.5 billion forints (US$26 million,22 million) in extra funds in the 2006 state budget for institutions like homes for the elderly, for the mentally or physically handicapped and orphanages.
On photo: Social Affairs Minister Kinga Goncz.