'Today it is all about holding on to our benefits for daily living'
My budget:Mary Marmion is a single parent and mother of 17- year-old twins, Sam and Adam. Sam is autistic and has a learning disability. He attends St Catherine’s School in Newcastle, near Greystones. The family live in Co Wicklow.
“Sam was diagnosed when he was two, so we have been in the system a long time,” she says. “When he was growing up . . . I lobbied with other parents for things like speech and language facilities. Today it is all about holding on to our benefits for daily living.”
Marmion is recently divorced and has had to learn how to navigate the HSE system to apply for an allowance to care for Sam.
“When I was married, I didn’t qualify for a carer’s allowance because of my husband’s income,” she explains. She receives a carer’s allowance of €230 a week. Sam gets a disability allowance of €188 a week since he was 16.
Marmion is sure of one thing: “We can’t go back to the way it was . . . charity has been replaced by rights, which are now being restricted by HSE resources.”
She maintains contact online with other parents of children with special needs. “Our social lives are curtailed, so we rely on Facebook . . . and recently, you can really see the fear in people’s pages around the budget .”
Once Sam turns 18 next year, he becomes an adult in the HSE system. “He has a great service at the moment, but what happens when he is 18?”
Marmion is aware her own mental health is at risk from stress. “Sam is very sensitive to my moods. There are days when I think, ‘how am I going to raise this young man?’ I could despair very easily. There are some parents who are really burned out from worry.”
Her key budget worry is the carer’s allowance.