Benefits system should ensure that poor kids get more than better-off ones
This is what worries me about the situation for kids with special needs in this country. Resources are limited. They will always be limited. There are more and more children being diagnosed with special needs. The rest of us are getting older and the planet can only give so much. It’s vital that the resources go to the kids who need them.
Universal benefits can never deliver in this way. The domiciliary care allowance is the property of the child, whose parents’ economic circumstances are not taken into account at all. Where is the sense in that? The child’s economic status depends entirely on that of his parents.
I would start over. Bring back the concept of a household income, rather than assessing parents individually for tax. Make all benefits, including child benefit, liable for tax so that poor kids get more than better-off kids.
And funnel money directly into services – occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologists and others. There are many examples of unwisely directed funding in our care for kids with special needs. Take July Provision, by which a primary school teacher provides children with 40 hours of one-to-one tuition through the month of July, if their schools aren’t open.
Tom has had this service, costing the taxpayer €1,600 each year, three years running. No one has ever even checked that it happened. You could say your sister taught your child and go on holiday with the money. A friend employed a teacher who wanted the kid to tag along with her while she taught on a holiday camp.
And then again, one-to-one tuition for two hours a day is not a great option for kids with attention issues. Where’s the specialist holiday camp? For radical change to happen you need fearless questioning.
That starts with parents who say what they need and admit what they don’t. It ends with a Government that, rather than cutting necessary grants to children with lifelong conditions, admits they’re going to have to give less to better-off kids so they can give more to poor kids.
We need Opposition politicians who don’t cry crocodile tears every time special needs children are mentioned, making them, in media terms, today’s equivalent of “the black babies.” And media that do more than cry along with them. We will never have respect for the disabled if we don’t have honesty.