Reilly denies making U-turn on cuts to disability services

Thu, Sep 6, 2012, 01:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has denied that he made a U-turn on cutbacks to disability services.

Dr Reilly tonight said he regretted and deplored the fact that disability campaigners had been so fearful of cuts to their personal assistant services that they felt obliged to spend a night protesting outside Government Buildings earlier this week.

There has been storm of criticism since the HSE announced €130 million in health cuts, €10 million of which it said would be saved "through the reduction of personal assistant hours" provided to those with disabilities.

In an interview on RTÉ‘s Primetime programme tonight, Dr Reilly said he had made clear that any reduction to services in the areas of personal assistants and home help had to be “the absolute last resort”.

“When these cuts were first made available to me…I made it very clear that any interference, any reduction in service, particularly in the areas of personal assistants and home help, had to be the absolute last resort,” he said.

"I have made it very clear that people are not going to lose these services…there was no decision to remove them; they were on a list. I made absolutely clear to people who drew that list up that these things were not to happen until everything else was fully exhausted.”

He said the Government and troika needed a list of deliverable cash before the end of the year.

Dr Reilly said he had made it clear last Friday that services were not going to be lost to people. “It was never going to happen,” he said, adding that the idea had planted in the minds of people.

“In my view there hasn’t been a U-turn but that is not the issue as far as I’m concerned.”

Earlier today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Dr Reilly was “to be admired” for “having the courage” to reverse cuts to personal assistant hours for disabled people.

“He is to be admired for doing so quickly and effectively and ending the confusion and the fear,” Mr Kenny said.

Dr Reilly said he heard what the Taoiseach said and that he had sought to explain since Friday that the services would not be reduced.

The Minister said he was not bothered if the developments had been seen as a U-turn. He said he would seek greater efficiencies in the way the €1.4 billion disability budget was spent, as would be the case with primary care and hospital budgets.