Friday, 7 December 2012

Targeting the most vulnerable

I'll get back to writing about SPUC next week, but in light of Ireland's Budget, I feel the need to focus on some of the points that will hit people, particularly the most vulnerable, hardest.

The targeting of people who have a disability hits particularly close to home for me.
The Respite Care Grant is paid to those caring for someone with a disability, this grant is paid to more than 77,000 families in the country, 20,000 of whom receive no other support from the state for providing full-time care for a family member. It is used by carers to buy home care or pay for residential respite care, in order to give them a break from their caring role. Mostly during the recession it has been used to pay bills or buy other necessities for people. The annual grant has been cut by €325 to €1,375. Many carers work 24/7, 365 days of year. Carers reduce the cost of caring for the government. They free up beds in hospitals and nursing homes and they reduce the costs of medical personnel. They assist with the medical needs and psychological needs of loved ones. They provide  900,000 hours of care daily, carers save the state €4 billion every year. They are often praised, and rightly so, as unsung heroes. Unfortunately praise and rhetoric don't pay the bills! The government talk out of both sides of their mouth on this, they sing the praises of carers on one day and then cut their meagre incomes the next. It is sickening that Pat Rabbitte refers to this €325 decrease as a "modest" cut, but then I assume €325 would be a modest cut on his salary.

Along with the Respite Grant cut, a number of weeks before the budget, the HSE cut the gluten free product allowance for Coeliacs. Gluten Free breads, pastas and cereals are more expensive and those on low incomes could avail of them by medical card or through the Drugs Payment scheme. It is worth mentioning that people with certain disabilities are more prone to Coeliac Disease. During this run of cuts, other medications were also targeted. Two medications prominently used by older people were taken from the scheme. Glucosamine,which deals with wear and tear of the joints in osteoarthritis patients and Omega 3 triglycerides ,which are beneficial in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs, and are often prescribed by cardiac doctors. In my own family, both my sister and my mother have Coeliac Disease, my mother is also my sister's carer. Gluten free food costs, on average, four times more than their ordinary counterparts. That €325 cut is starting to appear less and less "modest".
As well as taking foods off the medical cards and Drug Refund schemes, to add insult to injury, for those (un)fortunate to still retain their medical card the prescription charge has been trebled. James Reilly,who once said he wanted to abolish the prescription charge, raised the charge from €0.50 to €1.50. This may not sound like much to most people but to put it in perspective, a person covered by a medical card, who previously paid no more than €10 a month, will now be liable for up to €19.50 per month. It was also revealed that the nursing homes support scheme — a Fair Deal that began providing financial support for people assessed as needing long-term nursing home care is also being changed. Currently, the loan is paid after death with a levy of up to 15% on the person’s estate over three years. The levy is now being increased to 22.5% over the same period.

I know there was some good natured cribbing about the price of wine etc. on Budget Day but please remember all those who have been hit so hard that wine and beer are the least of their worries.
Unlike the government, don't forget that this government promised :"to ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities was enhanced and that resources would be allocated reach the people who need them".
I challenge any government minister to walk a mile in their shoes!

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