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Care Services: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan] That appears to be the policy. This example of an individual would prove that as far as I am concerned. A lady, who has appealed her decision for a carer's allowance, contacted me. We were told that this week she had failed to pass the medical side of things again. She has cared for her partner full time for more than 18 months and she is in an awful state. Her partner has had prostate cancer since 2007. He underwent radiotherapy where his bowel was damaged and as a result it bleeds on a continuous basis. He has had five operations in St. Vincent's University Hospital and will go for another one in January. His clothes need to be changed constantly and he basically needs 24-hour care. He is only 69 years of age and also has other conditions, including asthma, a heart condition and a major kidney problem. Yet he is refused on medical grounds. The Government should recognise a good deal when it sees one. If it is all about money, it should recognise it. It should forget about the people, we know that has happened. The Government should just think about the money because €60 is a good deal.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am delighted to be able to speak on tonight's motion and I compliment Deputy Halligan on tabling it and the Technical Group on supporting it. I am slightly concerned about Deputy Ross and the seating arrangements here because we had confusion last night over the votes in the House. I am worried to see Deputy Tom Fleming and him sitting between the two hard left Members and he is supposed to be on the hard right, but I know he is not on the hard right either. I am sure we will sort that out later. I compliment him on his understanding of the carers' situation. None of us needs to claim credit - the carers do a tremendous job 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

It is not me for to lecture Deputy Áine Collins and the Ministers of State, Deputies McGinley and Perry or anything else. The carers are a special group who work 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and represent great value for money. I am a member and I proudly wore the badge until someone from their organisation pulled it off me outside the gate last Thursday. I wear the badge with honour and respect. Councillor Richie Molloy, an Independent councillor and manager of services for Tipperary carers, and all those involved in the committee are tremendous people. They organise treasure hunts on St. Stephen's Day and on the August bank holiday, coffee mornings and table quizzes. We all know what they have to do to supplement the few bob carers get.

The real carers are in the home and caring for the people such as the person Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan mentioned. Goodness knows, any one of us could be one of those soldiers any time soon and we could need care. Then we will know about the harsh system where people must wait 12 months for an application to be processed and two years for an appeal, which is downright disgraceful. We cannot allow this. In a modern country that calls itself a democracy, this is a charade. It is a blockage and amounts to telling them to go away, as Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan said. While we certainly need to make cuts and balance the books, we are only talking about €26 million here. The €1,700 allows carers to take a break once a year and, by God, they are entitled to it. Often they do not get the break because sometimes they bring the person for whom they care with them and other times they spend the time phoning home because they are attached and really do care.

The Government has also cut the home help so that people are getting half an hour instead of an hour and a half. The home-helper would not have the key turned in the front door to come in before the time would be up. What happens is an insult to the dignity of human beings. People can say what they like about the last crowd - I was one of them - but they protected the carers at all costs because they had some bit of connectivity with the ordinary people. We lobbied hard at all times for the carers and fought for them.

Last year the Government rowed back on the decision on the DEIS schools which involved a larger amount of money. I appeal to the Government to find the €26 million elsewhere, because it can be done. It could be done if the Minister of State looked to his right and talked to the mandarins in the Department of Finance. They can come up with figures out of the sky such as the €500 million from property tax. They do not care where it comes from once it does not come from them. The Government should go after those people. It should go after the increments it is paying them - not the lowly civil servant or the lowly man with a shovel on the road or working at the front desk, but the fat cats in the Department who advise the Minister of State and send replies to parliamentary questions to Deputy Áine Collins, me and others stating that the Minister has no responsibility in the area. It is a charade and it is time they were found out and dealt with. The Government should take it where it can get it and not be demonising the carers who are proud people who do so much work for their families, relations and loved ones. They save a fortune in hospital bills and save people waiting on trolleys and waiting for beds.

There is something morally wrong and corrupt with the system when we penalise these people and let off the people who should be taxed. The Department will claim it cannot do a means test for child benefit, which is a lie. It is a lazy, inept, unenergetic fallacy that they are portraying. It is time they were woken up and told to take the money where it can be got and leave alone people who are giving so much to their families and saving the State so much money. It has gone badly wrong. It happened with the previous Government, is happening with this Government and will happen with the next Government. The permanent government needs to be dealt with and called aside. Those people do not need increments because they are well cushioned. I hope they will not need carers because they will get very poor care.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy I quote:

Carers will be recognised and respected as key care partners. They will be supported to maintain their own health and well-being and to care with confidence. They will be empowered to participate as fully as possible in economic and social life.

That comes from the National Carers Strategy 2012. What has happened in the budget is very far from respecting carers as key care partners. They have been targeted in a blunt and brutal way for an attack on their incomes and their families. They do tremendous work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. In many cases it is not possible for carers to use the respite care grant for respite because they need to use it to pay for normal day-to-day bills particularly heating, which is vital for the elderly people for whom they care. Far from allowing them to take a holiday, the respite care grant is being used to fund the day-to-day expenses of the family of the person being cared for.

  This brutal and vicious cut will only save approximately €26 million, which at 0.14% of a €20 billion budget is a drop in the ocean. In the general election campaign both Government parties claimed that the most vulnerable would be protected, but this is exactly the opposite. Both parties are reneging on yet another commitment. There were choices and the Government could have achieved savings elsewhere or could have imposed tax increases elsewhere. I repeat what I have said in this House on numerous occasions. The wealthiest 5% of people in this country have €239 billion in assets. The same people over 2009 and 2010 increased their assets by €46 billion - these are not my figures but CSO figures. The wealthiest 10% of people in this country increased their income over the recession by 6%. These are people who are doing well out of the recession but the Government will not take a ha'penny from them. Why is there not a wealth tax or an asset tax as in other countries? Such a tax was introduced by a Fine Gael Minister years ago in the 1970s. If that tax was in place today it would be bringing in approximately €2 billion a year and there would be absolutely no necessity for these cruel and miserly cuts on people who are working above and beyond the call of duty for every minute of every day of every year.

  I want the Minister of State to address this question. I have been dealing with applications for carer's allowance for many years. The Department of Social Protection has been given a political instruction to refuse carer's allowance.

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