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Care Services: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins]  I also fully support the call from the Carers Association for the publication of the national carers strategy, which was drawn up by the previous Government after widespread consultation. The Fine Gael-Labour programme for Government commits to providing for the strategy and to implementing the necessary measures, for example, income supports, recognition by the health professions, training, access to the labour market, transport and housing.

The Government has much to answer for. It cannot keep pointing the finger at Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil started this, but the Government is continuing it. It should stop it.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to speak on this important motion on the vital contribution carers make to the social and economic life of the nation. Some people are under the impression that the debate on carers, the disabled, senior citizens and the cut to the respite care grant is over. It is not. I will continue to fight and fight until carers get justice and equality. The respite care grant cut was a national disgrace. Any Deputy who supported it should hang his or her head in shame. It was wrong, wrong, wrong, and no weasel words will change my mind. To take money from those families was mean and a grave injustice. If we lived in a real democratic and inclusive republic, this cut would not have been made. Many Independent Deputies made other funding proposals, including some made tonight.

It was disgraceful and eternally shameful of the Labour Party and Members like Deputies Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Seán Kenny to support this cut-----

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White Well chosen.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath -----as well as the €10 cut to child benefit. Other promises to the people of the north side of Dublin were broken. Those Deputies had the brass neck to claim they prevented cuts to education and health. Tell that to those in receipt of services for the disabled, funding for which was cut by 3% last week, or to the 350 profoundly deaf children on the waiting list for life-changing implants. The €11 million cut to post-leaving certificate courses hit the most disadvantaged. Deputies should stop spinning the truth and own up to their cuts and false promises. It is gombeen politics at its worst.

Today, the Government spent €244,741 on a website for the EU Presidency. Including other expenses, the total was in the region of €330,194.71. This would be enough to restore the full respite care grant to more than 1,000 people. Do not talk about a lack of funds when such amounts are being wasted. Most Deputies know that one could get a website for between €3,000 and €4,000. It is time for the Government to get real.

The cut of 3% to front-line services for the disabled will have a devastating effect in 2013. It is the untold story of the budget. On the ground, services at St. Michael's House will lose €5 million in 2013. The Government should not lecture us about protecting the vulnerable. It has turned its back on the vulnerable. Even the IMF has asked it to ease off in the past 24 hours. This is the reality on the ground and is the subject matter of the motion. The Technical Group Members, from all political backgrounds, have united in this motion to stand with the country's carers.

Last week saw the scandal of a Labour Member - I believe it was Deputy Nolan - telling his parliamentary party meeting that the only people who cared about the carers in Galway were the carers themselves. That was an appalling statement for a Member of any party to make in the broader debate. It is important that these matters be made public. The Government has let carers down.

In this motion, the Technical Group acknowledges the fact that full-time family carers are expert care partners and, as such, should be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Carers have the right to have their own health needs met. We call on the Government to reverse immediately the cut to the respite care grant that was announced in budget 2013. We ask that provision be made "from within the special delivery unit budget allocation to incorporate carer induction training and needs assessment prior to a patient being discharged". We also ask that the backlog in carer's allowance applications be eliminated by early 2013. I urge all Deputies to support carers, the disabled, senior citizens and, above all, this motion.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I thank Deputy Halligan for tabling this Private Member's motion. I will focus on the respite care grant. In most cases, it is wrong to represent it as being used for frivolous reasons. Often, this grant as well as domiciliary care payments are used exclusively to fill gaps in services that should be available, yet are not. Many services are organised around institutions instead of around the person requiring care. One needs to know the system to get the services that are required.

There are vast differences in what might be available. For example, elder care services provided in west Dublin and north Kildare cannot be compared. I will use a recent instance as an example. Someone who was confined to bed needed a pressure mattress. It was provided in west Dublin. In north Kildare, however, the person was told to source it himself or herself. Often, geography determines the services one receives. The way they are delivered causes additional problems for carers. They must become advocates for and organisers of the other person's needs.

Getting an old or sick person admitted to hospital has become a new battleground. I dealt with a case of a 90 year old man who suffered post-operative complications. Getting an ambulance for him took several weeks and presented an even greater issue than finding him a hospital bed. There is something wrong about that. His doctor spent three weeks trying to get him to the hospital. The HSE has told me that transport may only be provided when, in the clinician's view, the patient would be unable to make the journey without clinical assistance or where the patient must be transported by stretcher. This will cause serious problems for the elderly in particular.

I echo Deputy Joan Collins's points on the delays in processing carers' claims. They take a ridiculous length of time. Often, people must decide that they cannot care for their elderly relatives at home. The Carers Association is seeking a general practitioner, GP, card for carers. If someone qualifies for a carer's allowance, that card should be supplied. It makes good economic and health care sense, as one third of all carers become ill. Keeping them well is in the country's interests.

I will turn to the issue of housing adaptation grants, which are administered by local authorities. Their provision depends on each authority's ability to find matching funds. How the local government fund, LGF, has been dispensed in recent years has been deeply unfair and will not improve, given how the property tax has been described. It is ironic that many counties that fall into so-called poor areas often have more discretionary funding. The qualifying criterion for the housing adaptation grant is the amount of funding an authority can provide to match the amount drawn down from the Department. The needs and resources model is used. It is based on an assessment conducted in or around 2000. What one has, one holds. Counties with populations that have grown in recent years are at a considerable disadvantage.

I wish to address an area in which families' caring needs will increase, namely, where adult services have been withdrawn from young people who have finished their schooling. Recently, I was contacted by someone whose son is autistic and non-verbal. He was told he would be put on the list, but no service was guaranteed. In fact, respite services were going to be removed and day services were to be reduced because they had reached the point at which residential services could only be provided for residential placements.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall The Deputy should conclude.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I will. This development will create new caring needs.

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