Carers protest over Budget cuts


About 250 carers and their families protested outside Leinster House today against the cuts announced in the Budget.

The group gathered quietly outside the Kildare Street gate at noon, with many of those in attendance saying they had been affected by a cut of €325 to the annual €1,700 respite care grant announced in Wednesday’s Budget.

Some of those present indicated they relied on the grant not only to pay for respite services, but also to fund day-to-day expenses such as petrol or diesel or medical aids.

Jean Kilgannon from Co Kildare looks after her daughter Mary, who is 42 and has spina bifida. She said the increase in prescription charges from 50 cent to €1.50 would affect her hugely.

“We never abuse the system. We are always very careful with the amount of prescriptions we get.”

Ms Kilgannon said she would prefer to get inside the building to speak to the politicians face to face.

“Don’t ask me what I’d say to them because it couldn’t be repeated. They feather their own nests.”

Mandy Palmer from Palmerstown in Dublin cares full time for her mother and father, who are in their 70s. Her mother suffered a massive stroke about three years ago and her father also suffers medical problems.

“She can’t walk and she couldn’t make a cup of tea for herself.”

Ms Palmer said she used the respite grant to bring her parents away for a night to a hotel. “I’ve done it for the last two years since I got the respite money. It means I can have some kind of memory with them that’s not just all horrific. Then I have a couple of nights to myself where I get somebody in to mind them. It makes a big difference to me knowing that I can go away somewhere for two nights and not have to worry.”

Noeleen Eccles, a lone parent living in Blanchardstown, cares full time for her five-year-old girl Lucy who has multiple disabilities. Lucy attends school at the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf, where she also has early intervention treatments such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.

Ms Eccles, who also has a 10-year-old daughter, drives from Blanchardstown to Clontarf three or four times a week and back and also to multiple medical appointments, sometimes clashing on the same day.

“When you see all these examples on the TV they never give you the example of a lone parent who also happens to be a carer, which as far as I’m concerned are among the most vulnerable in society.”

Brian Fagan from Enfield, Co Meath, looks after his father, who is almost 89. His mother died about five months ago.

Mr Fagan used to run a haulage business but had to give it up to look after his parents.

“I just had to get a brother of mine to call in today to look after him so I could get up here and there’s a home help going in as well. It’s hard to leave them, you know?”

His father has limited mobility and needs help getting in and out of bed.

The cut in the respite grant will also affect him, he said. “It’s a big hit for me and it’ll be a big hit for a lot of people. You’d have loads of things to do with it.”

Author and campaigner Paddy Doyle said he came to the protest because he had heard a politician on the radio this morning “waffling” about the Budget and how it “wasn’t that bad”.

“I’ve been campaigning on disability issues for the best part of 40 years now," he said. "I was the first person to picket public buildings and do various things like that and I thought to myself: ‘Are things improving at all?’ And they’re actually not. They’re getting worse.

“There’s no question or doubt about it that any vulnerable group, be they elderly, be they carers – the few I’ve met here are exhausted. You can see it in their faces that they’re just worn out. They’re saving the State a fortune,” he added.

A number of Oireachtas members were present, including Sinn Féin TDs Mary Lou McDonald, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Crowe, Independent TDs Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Mattie McGrath and Catherine Murphy and Independent Senator David Norris.

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