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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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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry] The strategy also contains a road map for implementation, which outlines the actions that will be taken to deliver on the goals and objectives of the strategy. The road map also outlines the timelines and the Department with responsibility for their implementation. Each Department will produce an annual report on progress, which will be published on its website. A progress report on the overall implementation of the strategy will be produced on a periodic basis over the lifetime of the strategy and presented to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy. Each Department has appointed a senior official to take responsibility for its actions and for the provision of ongoing up-dates to the Cabinet committee.

The Government continues to face a daunting challenge in repairing the economy and the public finances. Difficult decisions are still required. As we have shown in budget 2013 we are committed to meeting this challenge, and are determined that through good government we will lead Ireland back to independent funding and back to sustainable growth in living standards and in employment. We are facing the future in a positive light. We have seen a total transformation in only 12 months. Today, markets and foreign lenders are lending once again to Ireland and to Irish businesses. This will help our businesses and our economy to continue its path to recovery. This was the context in which the Government took the hard decisions in the budget.

The Government has a vision for carers, a vision of an Ireland which recognises and respects the valuable role of carers in society by providing them with support, where necessary, to assist them in their caring role and to enable them to participate as fully as possible in economic and social life. This is our vision, and is what guides us.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I call Deputy Boyd Barrett who is sharing time with Deputies Stephen Donnelly and John Halligan.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I thank Deputy Halligan for tabling this motion and recognising in it the incalculable service which carers provide to our society and to some of the most vulnerable in it. I must say I am a bit bemused, and with no personal disrespect to the Minister of State, as to why the Minister of State with responsibility for small business is taking a motion on carers. One would have expected at the very least either the Minister herself, the Minister for Health or even a Minister of State at the Department of Health. Frankly, I do not understand why someone whose brief is very different from this is taking the issue.

Deputy John Perry: Information on John Perry Zoom on John Perry It is all about caring in the community and social enterprise.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Closing down businesses.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is a very telling comment-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath An insult.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett -----which in a way reinforces one of the main points I want to make. There is no economic rationale or logic to justify making life worse for carers and consequently making life worse for those for whom they care, some of the most vulnerable people in our society. There are no words anyone in the House can say to do justice to the heroic and selfless work done by carers. The working week, the working day and the working year never end for a carer; they are on call 24-seven. They may not be always working, but they are on call all of these hours. If any other worker in any profession had to work the hours with the level of intensity which carers have to do and be on call at that level to carry out the type of work and service they provide to the people they love and to our society and economy, they would be paid multiples of what carers receive.

I say again nothing - no economic rationale, no talk of the troika and no talk of difficult decisions confronting the Government - can justify making life worse for those carers, and without question these cuts to the respite care grant and the absolutely unacceptable delays and refusals in terms of carer's allowance applications, delays which have trebled on the Government watch, are unconscionable and absolutely without justification. It is preposterous to speak about how generous the regime is. The generous ones are the carers. Nothing could be more generous or selfless than what they do for the people they care for and for our society and economy. They give back four or five times more to our economy than they take from it. The Minister of State should be down on his bended knees thanking them and not making life worse for them.

People in the Government say rightly that money is not the issue for carers, and it certainly is not because they would not be doing it if it was given the amount they receive, but the Government states somehow this would be compensated by the review of services. Please do not make us laugh or insult the intelligence of the carers. These services are being cut. Only weeks ago I brought dozens of parents of children with severe intellectual disabilities into the Gallery to point out to the Tánaiste that respite care day services and 24-seven services have been slashed. He stated in that engagement that he would meet with the service provider, they will look at it and sort it out. They got nothing. Those services were slashed, end of story. The Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly has put through a total of €780 million worth of health cuts in the budget and we do not even know what exactly they will mean, but they will definitely mean further cutbacks in day and respite services. Do not give us the economic claptrap. There is no justification for this. Even a small bit of extra income tax on those earning more than €100,000, cutting the pay of some of the top CEOs in semi-State companies or a wealth tax would have covered this very easily. It is appalling and the Government should back off from it.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I wish to address the 20% cut to the respite care grant which is being introduced by the Cabinet in the budget for 2013. I will not dwell on the meanness of this cut. I will not dwell on how unnecessary it is in the context of troika targets. I will not dwell on the hardship the cut will cause throughout the country. All of this has been covered with passion and eloquence by many other Deputies.

I want to demonstrate how technically flawed the cut is and how it will in all probability not save the State a single cent. The Carers Association tells us 180,000 carers are in Ireland. We know 77,000 of these are in receipt of the respite care grant. It is estimated this care saves the State, or is worth, €4 billion so on average 180,000 carers provide €22,000 worth of care per year. The figure we are told this cut will save is €26 million, but of course it is not because this money gets taken out of the economy. Using the Government's multiplier, the saving would be €16 million.

Of course, this is not where this ends, because while many carers will continue to provide the level of care they do regardless of the cut some will not be able to do so. Some will not be able to provide the €22,000 worth of care which they currently do. Here is the maths. If just one in 100 of those 77,000 carers can no longer provide the care and passes the cost on to the State it will wipe out the entire €16 million. The question one must ask from a policy perspective is how many of the 77,000 will be forced to do this because of financial constraints. We do not know because the Dáil has not been provided with any technical appendix or analysis for this cut. However, one in 100 does not seem that far fetched. If this happens, if one in 100 carers can no longer provide the care, the Cabinet will have achieved three things. It will not have saved a penny, it will have made lives more difficult for 77,000 carers and those for whom they care, and it will have shown a total disregard for the House by not providing it with the time to debate the legislation or the data needed to interrogate it properly.

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