Call for carers allowance applicants to reapply after High Court ruling

Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 01:00


The Carers Association has encouraged the Department of Social Protection to contact people previously refused domiciliary carer’s allowances in the wake of a High Court ruling last week which criticised its assessment policies.

Last Tuesday, a High Court judge overturned the department’s refusal to grant a domiciliary care allowance to the mother of an autistic boy.

Mr Justice Max Barrett said the department appeared to have had a “disdainful mindset” to the evidence of a HSE team – comprising a senior clinical psychologist, occupational therapist, public health nurse and physiotherapist, all of whom had met the boy – instead making its decision based on the “desk-top reviews” of its own medical assessors with no personal knowledge.

The judge upheld the mother’s challenge and directed the department to reconsider the application. Asked whether it would be conducting a review of its policies around the domiciliary care allowance, a spokeswoman for the department said it had received the judgment from the High Court and was “presently reviewing that judgment”: “The department is therefore not in a position to comment further at this time.”


Encouraged to reapply
However, Catherine Cox, head of communications with the Carers Association, said the organisation would be contacting people who had been unsuccessful in their applications for the allowance and encouraging them to reapply. She credited the department for its work with the organisation on a new form for allowance applicants, which she said will better reflect the needs of autistic children and which should mean more families will qualify.

Ms Cox described the move as a “huge improvement” for families of autistic children who had “definitely been discriminated against”.

In the wake of this development and last week’s judgment, she urged the department to contact families who had been refused the allowance to inform them and support them.

Gareth Noble, solicitor for the mother in the High Court case, said he hoped the outcome would result in a change of culture in the department.

He referred to the outcomes in 3,806 cases for which he sought information under the Freedom of Information Act noting that “in 100 per cent of [these] cases, the department followed the views of their internal medical assessors, preferring their evidence over the opinions of the applicants’ medical experts”.


‘Huge inflexibility’
“That shows huge inflexibility on the part of the department,” he said. However, he stressed not all the decisions had resulted in the applicant being refused: 2,224 resulted in positive outcomes while 1,582 were negative.