Disability groups 'may reopen protest'
Disability activists who protested overnight outside Leinster House last month have said they are willing to reactivate their protest if the Government bring about cuts to disability services in the upcoming budget.
Speaking at the launch of the Centre for Independent Living’s pre-budget submission chairperson Michael McCabe, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, said that the fear was that, while the Government had rowed back on proposed cuts to personal assistant (PA) hours that other vulnerable people would be affected by cuts to the disability budget.
“The €10 million...money won’t be cut off the PA budget but it will be cut off the disability budget. We’re the people with PAs but there’s a lot of other people who don’t have PAs. They rely on, not only home help, but equipment, aids and appliances and they’re going to be cut by a lot more,” he said.
“When we were outside the Dáil we won the battle but we lost the war. [I’m] afraid that we might have to go back outside the Dáil and we don’t want to do that...Next year we have presidency of the European Union. We don’t want to embarrass anybody but believe me we will.”
Aaron Abbey, one of those who protested overnight at the Dáil last month, said he and others in the disability were “absolutely” willing to resume their protest if cuts were made to the disability budget.
“Our fear is that they could row backwards, that this is a smokescreen, that there will be further cuts in the budget,” he said.
Speaking today at the launch today of the Centre for Independent Living’s pre-budget submission, its executive director, Gary Lee, said the organisation and its members were “apprehensive as to what’s going to happen in the next budget”, especially in relation to home help hours.
“There are a lot of people who are in receipt of personal assistant services also have home help hours as well so one is really going to affect the other. If home help hours are cut it’s affecting our members as well,” he said, adding that it was more economically beneficial to provide home help and personal assistants compared to the high costs in the provision of long term residential or hospital care.
He said that, despite the success of protests last month which saw the Government row back on the cutting back on personal assistant hours, that needed to be a Government commitment to ring fence funds for these services, one of the recommendations made by the group in its pre-budget submission. The organisation also called for an increase in the budget to allow more people to avail of the service for which is waiting list of around 1,600 people.
Carmel Donovan, who has been waiting for four years for a personal assistant despite being assessed as qualifying for 20 hours of services a week said that a lack of a PA may force here to quit her job: “Working gives you dignity you feel you’re worth something while you are working. I’m contributing to the community...If work is taken way from me. and it’s looking like I’ll have to give it up, then I’ll be back in the house on my own all day.”
The Centre for Independent Living, the national body for 22 centres located around Ireland, added that the replacement of disability allowance for those aged 16 to 18 with a domiciliary carers allowance did not represent an equitable change and would put families and individuals at a higher risk of poverty.