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Funding of Disability Services: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne] Any decision-making of the future should include in particular the parents who are very much aware of the difficulties and the decisions that need to be made and what is best for those with disabilities. A one-size-fits-all approach certainly does not suit. There are persons with mild disabilities and persons with profound disabilities. Some are able to go to the ordinary primary and secondary school, and some are not. It is important that the families of children with disabilities be listened to and given a voice.

Before the last election both the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, and the Taoiseach stated clearly that those with disabilities would be a priority for this Government. The HSE service plan for 2012, on which Oireachtas Members in the south east are briefed regularly, is not living up to the ambitions of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste prior to the last election. Even on Friday last, I was at a meeting with the HSE service management of the south east where they were telling us there would be major difficulties in home help and help for persons with disabilities in 2013 because of the reduction of the budget in all of these areas.

Deputy O'Dea touched on the domiciliary care allowance. It is practically impossible to get domiciliary care allowance under this Government and many have had their domiciliary care allowance withdrawn. In many cases, the domiciliary care allowance is the difference in providing a reasonable standard of living for families looking after children with disabilities. It is important that the review of domiciliary care allowance would be reviewed to ensure that those entitled to the allowance would get it.

The Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party stated prior to the election that they would provide certain job opportunities for persons with disabilities. I have a criticism to make of local authorities and public bodies generally. They talk about the 3% commitment but from my experience and from speaking to parents of persons with disabilities I can tell the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, that the 3% commitment is not being met anywhere in the country. It is important that the Minister of State speak to the county managers, the town clerks and the public service to see what can be done to encourage them to take on persons with disabilities. Some of those with disabilities who I know are highly intelligent. They are highly educated to second and third level, and yet they are at home without a job or an opportunity. Many of them tell me they are getting €188 and that for a little extra, a substantially smaller sum than would be expected, they would be only too glad to go into the work environment, particularly in local authorities and the public sector.

The number of job opportunities for persons with disabilities is alarming. If I ask a company to give €5,000 or €10,000 to the spina bifida association or any other association, more often than not it will give the money but if one asks it to employ a person with a disability one will be refused. It is important that we would encourage employers, both private and public, to take on persons with disabilities. They are highly skilled, highly talented and well able to work and they have a role to play in the Ireland of the future. It is important that would happen.

Deputy Kelleher's motion is important. The areas of respite care, special needs teachers, opportunities for persons with disabilities to get what is their right, and to have a say in what is their right, are important. The Government has failed to live up to the promises of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste before the last election. It is important that there be no further cutbacks. Rather, there should be an increase in the budget tomorrow for persons with disabilities. I am sure the Minister of State has fought at the table for that. It is no more than they deserve.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív This is a major topic in need of very serious consideration and detailed changes.

The first issue we must confront is that every year, as the hospitals overspend in the health budget, funding is withdrawn, not only from the hospitals to try to deal with the overspend but from primary care. When one looks at primary care, all of the permanent staff have salaries, yet the Government moves on the easy touches such as respite care, home care packages and home help. I believe that one structural change we need now is that from 1 January, no funding given to primary care can be removed to shore up overspends in the hospitals. It is a simple structural change but it would avoid the constant shifting of funding by the HSE from the primary care front-line services to the hospital services.

The second matter I want to deal with is work that I was doing as Minister for Social Protection. I brought in the partial capacity provisions under invalidity pensions and for the first time, we were grading or separating those with a very severe disability, those with a moderate disability and those with a mild disability. The idea was that those on invalidity pension could go back into the workforce and, depending on the level of disability, they could retain part or all of the payment. The Minister has developed the regulation but I do not see any push to implement it on the ground. That was meant to be the first step in trying to look at what we can do to help those with particularly severe disabilities or moderate disabilities.

There had been talk for a long time about the cost of disability allowance. Given the numbers who are in receipt of social welfare disability payments between invalidity pension and disability allowance, the payment of such an allowance across the board has significant cost implications. It also, at the margins, has implications of migration. However, if one follows what the Department was developing and what it advised me could be done, and one separates and grades it in the way that we were doing for the partial capacity scheme, then it would be possible to ensure there would be a disability payment or whatever one would like to call it that would be graded according to the level of disability.

On the Order Paper today there is a large Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Social Protection. It understates the position because whether by accident or design, the Department of Social Protection takes inordinate amounts of time to process simple forms. It takes a year to process an application for carer's allowance, and that is unacceptable. It could not take that long to check the income details and the medicals. In some cases, the medicals are so obvious there is no checking to be done on them. The only logical explanation is that this is a handy way of kicking the can down the road in terms of payments, and this is unacceptable. There was somebody in contact with my office in the past two days about a person who was caring for a person with a terminal illness and it was put bluntly by the family to me that the person will be dead before a decision is made on the carer's allowance application. That is unacceptable.

It is important that we look at the effect of possible cuts on the disability service. I was given details by the Brothers of Charity in Galway of the services they provide and the effect of a possible cut in the funding provided to them.

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