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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

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Snippet Contents:

At lunchtime one of the Dáil wits made the point that yesterday should really have been called "Fiver Tuesday". There was a fiver for everyone in the audience unless one was a young person and not deemed to be good enough to even get the fiver as if it was going to make a fundamental difference to the living standards of people in the State. Like everybody else, I am sure the Minister would forgive us for being somewhat underwhelmed by the budget. Already all Deputies will have experienced a huge number of people getting in touch with them to make the point about the gigantic gulf that exists between the reality of people's lives and the spin and propaganda that developed around this budget. One example would be Martin from Sligo who wrote to me about the so-called increase in the old age pension and the insulting fact that the social welfare payments have been delayed. Stephen, a man from my own area, is a construction worker who, in his own words, was forced to be in the bogus self-employment category. There was nothing in the budget for him. The last time he was laid off he was unemployed for six months and was cut off with no payments at all for four of those months because he was deemed to have earned an average of €188 per week in the year prior his employment ceasing. Consider Jane from Wexford who was nearly sick while listening to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, speaking last night about the budget and how it is the largest health budget in the history of the State. Jane made the point to me that if this is the case, then why in God's name does she have to beg, plead and very possibly protest for even the most basic of rights for her two children, who have severe disabilities. Jane pointed out that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, had said the increased budget meant the HSE has an increased responsibility and accountability at managerial level in the health service. The reality, however, for families who are interfacing with the HSE is that there is no accountability and no transparency whatsoever. Families are being put through hell when looking for even basic resources. In Jane's case, she is a lone parent because her husband tragically died and she has two young children both of whom have severe disabilities. She is facing the prospect of having to protest for a couple of extra hours help, so she can bring one of those young men to the hospital. The response she received from the HSE more or less said that if she kept this up, then the HSE would force her to put the young man into foster care. Apart from the potential costs to the State should he be put into foster care, which his family do not want, this was an insult to her because the young man has a loving family to look after him. That level of incompetence and mismanagement in the HSE is shackled throughout the organisation.
Yesterday I, along with many other Deputies, had an invitation to attend the premiere of Ken Loach's award winning film "I, Daniel Blake" which sadly clashed with the budget speech. We were faced with a choice. Would we sit around and listen to the usual nonsense and platitudes around the budget or would we go to see the film? It is about an unemployed man who had worked all his life as a carpenter, becomes ill as a result of a heart attack and is put through the rigours of trying to access social welfare benefits. The film shows the people he meets along that journey and the new face of the new buzzword system of social protection and social assistance. We made the only and absolutely correct choice, and I do not want to be in any way flippant, but we thought we would learn a hell of a lot more by seeing the film last night. I strongly recommend that the Minister and every Deputy in the House go to see the film when it starts showing in the Lighthouse cinema from Friday, 21 October. I do not say this as a joke. I say it because, for all the spin and jargon, the reality is that Ireland's system of social welfare, or social protection as it is incorrectly called in the State, is copied at every turn from what goes on in Britain. The film exposed a system that dehumanises people who have worked all their lives and forces them to believe they are spongers and scroungers. The system forces them onto fake training schemes and tells them how to do curricula vitae for jobs that are never there. These are people who would love to work if they had the ability, health-wise, or if the jobs were there. The film really brought home to me the discussion we had during Oral Questions with the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Varadkar, last week. During that debate, Deputies highlighted some of the systems Ireland has copied from the United Kingdom. We have the versions of Seetec Limited and all the others. The Minister was able to get away with painting a picture of people in our system who are being offered "employment opportunities" which would cost a person hundreds of euro to take up. There would be no realistic prospect of a decent job at the end of it. The Minister was able to caricature those people and portray them as people who sit at home waiting for dream jobs, not people who have been pauperised by the system and lack of opportunity, lack of child care and so on. I do not need to make the point about child care because it has been well articulated. It is fair enough if a person can access child care, then they can get some benefit from the new system but if one has not the means to do that and a mother or mother-in-law is minding the children, or if one is a stay-at-home mother, then those people are not benefitting from those provisions. It is completely wrong that a huge emphasis is being put on these in many ways false training schemes, such as the Gateway projects. People who worked all their lives and paid their contribution to society are being forced to sign up to schemes with local authorities to pick up litter while jobs in the operative sections in local authorities are being diminished. Young people leaving school cannot ever aspire to a manual job in a council or in a government building where, even if they did not get their leaving certificate, they might be able to move up through the ranks and have the audacity to think they could have a roof over their heads and their kids would get an education.