Government warned it will be forced to reverse respite care cut


The Government was warned it would be forced to reverse the €325 budget cut in respite care if it did not do so voluntarily.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald made the prediction about the cut, which affects 77,000 families, during heated exchanges in the Dáil on social welfare and PRSI allowance cuts.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte staunchly defended the measures in the budget. Describing the respite care cut as modest, Mr Rabbitte said it was the Government’s objective to ensure the caring profession was protected.

He said they were confronted with the choice of protecting the carer’s allowance and the half-carer’s allowance or introducing a modest cut in the respite allowance.

However, Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Dara Calleary said many of those who voted for Labour in 2011 were rueing their decision.

The Mayo TD said the cuts could have been avoided had the Government proceeded with Labour Party recommendations to “put a tax on those who can pay and those earning over €100,000”.

He said the Minister did not protect families in need of respite grants or families on low income who were charged the same PRSI increase as those on high incomes.

People who voted for Labour did so on the basis of a series of promises and “clearly you and your colleagues in Government have forgotten about those promises”.

The Mayo TD read from a series of advertisements, promises made by Labour in the general election, including pledges to protect child benefit. Mr Rabbitte said “we are confronted with the mess that you left”.

Tax abuse

He referred to a Fianna Fáil flyer opposing the property tax. He said the Government had preserved core social welfare rates, created 10,000 jobs and restored home help. It had maintained child benefit as a universal payment and protected lower and middle-income families from tax abuse.

During heated exchanges Ms McDonald accused the Minister of trying to “worm his way out of” dealing with the €325 cut in respite care, and said the Government had to reverse the cut.

“You know this cut is wrong . . . You can’t stand on your feet and talk about protecting the vulnerable and then launch an attack on carers.”

These were people who cared for other people, many of them with profound disabilities. “Do you get that, Pat Rabbitte? Do you actually get that?”

She said the respite care cut was wrong. “It’s indefensible. It’s not just unfair, it’s indecent.” She added that if the Government did not voluntarily reverse the cut it would be forced to do so, and she called on the Minister to “do the decent thing”.

Mr Rabbitte said it was “not possible to make the savings that we are mandatorily required to make and not impact on social welfare”.

Pay most

He insisted “we have gone out of our way to ensure that those who can pay most have done so in this budget, and those who need to be protected are protected”.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle accused the Labour Party of not protecting the vulnerable and he hit out at the abolition of the €254 PRSI allowance.

However, Mr Rabbitte said “we have to deal with the world as we find it, not as we would like it”. He said there was “only one lender prepared to give us the money and they’re establishing certain conditions with which we have to comply”.