Taoiseach denies Government targeting autistic children


TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has rejected charges that the Government is deliberately targeting autistic children for social welfare cuts.

He told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin there was an evaluation process “for every entitlement or allowance” and that included “an eligibility of conditions that apply”. But he added: “I reject out of hand your assertion that the Government is targeting autistic children to remove deliberately a consideration from them that they currently have.”

During Leaders’ Questions Mr Martin said nearly 50 per cent of children with autism and serious special needs had lost their domiciliary care allowance. Probably every TD in the Dáil had met parents of children who had lost the allowance, a monthly payment to the parent or carer of a child with a disability who requires substantially more care and attention than another child of the same age.

The Fianna Fáil leader referred to “a most insulting comment” in a letter a parent received from the Department of Social Protection. The letter said “the needs of your child are not greater than the need of any average six year old”. He claimed Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton had refused to meet parents protesting yesterday outside Leinster House and a meeting was cancelled 20 minutes before it was due to take place.

Since the Government announced a review of domiciliary care allowances a year ago there “has been a relentless assault on children with special needs and the domiciliary care allowance and this is unacceptable and wrong”, Mr Martin said. And the response of the department “betrays a lack of any idea of what issues and challenges are faced by a child with autism”. He added that “for some reason these children have been targeted in this review of the domiciliary care allowance”. When combined with cuts in the family income supplement and the carer’s allowance, “this is having a devastating impact on the families concerned”.

Accusing the Taoiseach of being “out of touch with these issues”, he said since the system moved from the Department of Health to Social Protection “it is clear there is a deliberate policy afoot to target children with autism” by removing their allowance.

Mr Kenny repeatedly rejected the charge that the Minister for Social Protection and the Government were targeting autistic children, but said he would be happy to ask the Minister to respond to correspondence Mr Martin had received from the parents of children with autism.