Carers protest over €325 cut in grant
About 250 carers and their families protested outside Leinster House yesterday against the cuts announced in the budget.
Many of those in attendance said they had been affected by the €325 cut to the annual €1,700 respite care grant announced on Wednesday. Protesters indicated they relied on the grant not only to pay for respite services, but also to fund day-to-day expenses such as petrol, diesel or medical aids.
Jean Kilgannon from Co Kildare cares for her daughter Mary (42), who has spina bifida. She said the increase in prescription charges from 50 cent to €1.50 would affect her hugely. “We never abuse the system. We are always very careful with the amount of prescriptions we get.”
Mandy Palmer from Palmerstown in Dublin cares full-time for her mother and father, who are in their 70s. Her mother suffered a massive stroke about three years ago and her father also suffers medical problems.
Ms Palmer said she used the respite grant to bring her parents away for a night.
“Then I have a couple of nights to myself where I get somebody in to mind them.
“It makes a big difference to me knowing that I can go away somewhere for two nights and not have to worry.”
Noeleen Eccles, a lone parent living in Blanchardstown, cares full-time for her five-year-old girl Lucy who has multiple disabilities requiring early intervention treatments such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and physiotherapy.
“When you see all these examples on the TV they never give you the example of a lone parent who also happens to be a carer, which as far as I’m concerned are among the most vulnerable in society,” she said.
Brian Fagan from Enfield, Co Meath, looks after his father, who is almost 89. His mother died about five months ago.
Mr Fagan used to run a haulage business but had to give it up to look after his parents. The cut in the respite grant will be “a big hit”.
“You can understand that the money isn’t there but you see people getting away with big salaries and big pensions. It’s very frustrating for me.
“It’s the old story in Ireland: the poor will always suffer first. They haven’t a clue.”
Author and campaigner Paddy Doyle said he came to the protest because he had heard a politician on the radio yesterday “waffling” about the budget and how it “wasn’t that bad”.
Carers were saving the State “a small fortune”, Mr Doyle said.
Some present attributed the relatively small number of protesters to the fact that carers, by the nature of the work they do, find it impossible to leave home to travel for such an event.
A number of Oireachtas members were present, including Sinn Féin TDs Mary Lou McDonald, Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Crowe, Independent TDs Luke “Ming” Flanagan, Mattie McGrath and Catherine Murphy, and Independent Senator David Norris.