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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 Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly] I compliment Deputy Halligan on bringing this motion before the House. I am proud to have signed it and will be voting in favour of it shortly.

This is bad legislation and bad policy, which goes against our values as a society. Two days after the budget announcement, I was knocking on doors in Wicklow and the single most common thing I heard from people on low, middle and high incomes was not to bring in a cut that affects carers. Those on middle and high incomes said they would reluctantly pay higher taxes. They said that if the choice was between taxing them or making cuts that affected carers, they should be taxed. Those on lower incomes said they would pay the tax if they could, or else we should find other ways of doing this rather than bringing in this cut of €26 million.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that this will cause hardship. We also know it is mean-spirited and financially unnecessary, but we do not know if it will save the State a single cent. This cut should be reversed.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan I thank my colleagues in the Technical Group for their valuable contributions and, indeed, all those who have contributed to the debate over the past two days.

The opening lines of the motion state: "That Dáil Éireann recognises the vital contribution carers make to the economic and social life of the nation ... that carers are real and equal partners in the provision of care at every level of public service ... that although family carers in the majority of cases are on call 24 hours per day and 365 days per year, they do not earn the ... minimum wage [and] are [not] entitled to ... sick pay or holiday pay ... [and] that family carers provide €4 billion worth of care each year, which is five times the actual cost to the Department of Social Protection." I would have thought that those lines would at least have been seen as reasonable, fair and just. That is what society is about - people being reasonable and fair to one another, and calling for a just society.

Yesterday, I spoke about how we gallantly protected senior civil servants' pensions and ministerial pensions, while we pay carers the equivalent of one cent an hour for 24-7 care. I also said that carers are the only people in the system who work full-time for their social welfare. They work seven days a week without earning the minimum wage and without sick pay or holiday pay such as PAYE workers would get. No civilised society would tolerate such modern-day slavery.

I want to speak about two people, Mary and Stephen. Mary's father had a severe stroke six years ago and her mother was diagnosed with emphysema. Mary lives with her parents, while her siblings live with their own families. Mary weighs seven stone. She decided not to put her father or mother into care. She said that they had loved her and she would love them for the rest of their lives. So began an ordeal of love, despair and stress: love for her mother and father, despair of seeing them constantly ill, and the stress of having to get up and turn her parents - it is my father and mother I am speaking about - four or five times during the night. I know how she works so hard. Mary does not go on the radio or television to talk to Joe Duffy, Pat Kenny or Vincent Browne. She does not speak to the newspapers either because she does not have time. She sees this as a commitment she made to my father, although my mother has since died. She made that commitment to them as they had committed their care and love to her.

Stephen is 26 years of age and his wife is 24. His wife went completely blind two years ago. She had six minor strokes and is on dialysis. They have a two and a half year old child. Stephen is now committed to caring for his wife and child 24 hours a day. When he contacted me, I wondered why a 26 year old who only lives a few streets away from my office could not come down to see me there. It was because he could not leave the house.

Would it not be fair to pay people like Mary and Stephen and all the other carers a reasonable rate of pay? Is it unreasonable to ask for that? Are these people not heroes of the State? How would it be if the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance went to Angela Merkel, the troika or any of the bondholders we are going to pay and said: "We are not going to give you any more money"? How would it be if, the next day, they stood before Mary and Stephen and said: "We are going to give the money to you"? If they did that, irrespective of what the consequences would be, every man, woman and child would stand behind the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and everyone else in this Parliament.

The heroism that carers display is not so much towards those they care for or because carers become ill and distressed quicker than many others and over a shorter period. It is the heroism they show to this State by saving it so much money every year. All they ask in return is to be treated justly, fairly and with respect. Will they get what they deserve? Carers do not demand. They never do and never will. They humbly request.

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