Lynch defends rates of carers' supports
Income supports available to carers in Ireland are among the highest in Europe, according to Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.
She said supports for carers in 2012 were an estimated €771 million, an increase of €20 million on 2011.
Ms Lynch, who has special responsibility for disability, told the Dáil that over the next five years the Department of Social Protection would spend €100 billion.
“I am very conscious of the needs of carers,” she said, adding that she was equally conscious of the needs of others, including the disabled and pensioners.
The revised rate of the respite care grant at €1,325 “will still be more than twice what it was in 2002 at €600, and higher than what it was in 2006 at the height of the economic boom at €1,200”.
She said the Government, “in the context of a very tough budgetary environment, will continue to do its utmost to protect the vulnerable”.
The Minister was responding to a Private Members’ motion by the technical group of TDs.
This called for a reversal of the cut in the respite care, the elimination of the current backlog of carer’s allowance applications and the provision of free GP care to full-time family carers.
The motion also called on the Government to establish a working group to properly identify the needs of carers.
Introducing the motion, Independent Waterford TD John Halligan said overall “family carers receive approximately €800 million from the social protection budget and save the health budget an estimated €4.5 billion”.
Mr Halligan said carers were “not only angry but also extremely hurt at the savage cut in the respite care grant, a grant that is soon eaten into by the costs associated with having a disabled child”.
He said this payment was supposed to be in lieu of residential services, to relieve those providing round-the-clock care. But he said they were using it to “fund actual physical respite care for their loved ones”.
The Waterford TD said carers were “probably the most heroic workers in any service in the State”.
United Left Alliance TD Clare Daly said it was a “complete and utter lie” for the Government to say it was a question of either cutting basic social welfare rates or the respite care grant.
“Everybody knows that wasn’t the only choice. You could have targeted the wealthy, the corporations.”
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said carers were not looking for anything special but they wanted basic recognition and “want to be treated properly by the State”.
He said it was “inhuman” to vote against a motion that “recognises the vital contribution carers make to the economic and social life of the nation and further acknowledges this by providing them with adequate income supports”.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said it seemed to be now a case of the Government “targeting people who are vulnerable, with intellectual and physical disabilities”.
This Government, in between honouring some commitments not to increase taxes or cut basic social welfare rates, was allowing vulnerable groups of people to be “attacked in a malicious way”.
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on Government TDs to look back at what they had said about supporting carers when in opposition and then “try to square your fine words in opposition with your deeds in government”.
Independent Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath said the Government was spending €250,000 on a website for Ireland’s presidency of the EU when he believed a website could be got for €4,000 to €5,000.
He said the difference would cover the carer’s grant cut for more than 1,000 people.
The debate continues tonight.