No economic crisis justifies what vulnerable are paying
OPINION:In the past year one million hours have been cut from the homecare service, leaving great hardship and anger, writes JOHN LONERGAN
We are a society that appears trapped in a dark, depressing tunnel and we are slowly developing a dog-eat-dog mentality along with a hardness of heart that appears to make us almost totally immune and indifferent to the pain and suffering of many of our fellow citizens.
Every week more and more cutbacks are inflicted on many of our most vulnerable people. Only last Sunday RTÉ Radio reported on the sad situation of a Co Mayo mother caring for her child who has a serious disability. She was originally allocated eight hours’ home help, this was subsequently reduced to five, and just recently she was told by the Health Service Executive that the five hours were now being withdrawn as they were required for a more deserving case.
This callous decision means that this mother is left on her own to care for her child 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A great example of when the lowest common denominator is used to decide on the merits of a case – you think that you are badly off but I know someone who is worse off.
It must be remembered that the home help programme was introduced to support a government policy that encouraged families to care in their homes for their loved ones in order to facilitate the freeing up of beds in hospitals and other residential centres for more urgent cases and, of course, to save money.
The ongoing reduction, and in many cases the total withdrawal, of home help hours has been nothing less than a betrayal of the individuals and families who have so generously participated in this scheme over the years. During the past year one million hours have been cut from the home care service, leaving in its wake great hardship and frustration.
The most recent announcement by the HSE of a further reduction in hours to save an extra €8 million, made so close to Christmas, is a Scrooge-like decision and how any society can support such a miserable attack on such vulnerable people is sad indeed.
And I must stress that people selected for home help are almost totally dependent on the support of their carers for their very survival.
Surely no economic crisis can justify such decisions. The result is that both those being cared for and their carers are all suffering great hardship and stress and many are at breaking point. Many will end up back in hospitals, nursing homes and in special care units, defeating the very purpose of the whole scheme.
Also this past week the principal of a primary school in Bluebell in Inchicore, Dublin, went public to say that she had no money to have essential maintenance work carried out in her school. It appears that the funds available from the Department of Education for emergency repairs in schools are no longer available, and the principal had to rely on the goodwill and generosity of some members of the public who became aware of her plight.
The Irish Principals’ Network claimed that 46 per cent of primary schools were operating on a deficit, and the dropping of the emergency repairs funding will inevitably plunge many schools into dire straits; many will not be able to pay for light or heat. And primary schools were already under pressure because of cuts to their capitation grants which fund the day-to-day running of schools.