Sir, – The article “Supreme Court dismisses father and son’s appeal over care allowance while child was hospitalised” (News, July 4th) highlights once more the failure of existing Government supports to respond adequately to the particular and very significant financial pressures experienced by families when a child becomes seriously ill and requires prolonged hospitalisation.
Addressing this financial burden is increasingly urgent, given the current cost of living crisis which is being acutely felt by many parents with children in hospital. As reported, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a father and son over the decision by the Department of Social Protection to find the child ineligible for domiciliary care allowance during the child’s prolonged hospital stay. As affirmed by the court, domiciliary care allowance is intended to financially assist parents caring for a child with significant additional needs in the home; it is held that when a child is hospitalised the cost of caring for them is covered by the State.
Research carried out by Children in Hospital Ireland (CIH) indicates that, although some caring costs are covered by the State when a child is in hospital, overall financial pressures on parents increase significantly.
Parents, as noted by Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, are expected to provide an extensive amount of care when their child is in hospital. This gives rise to additional expenditure on transport, food and accommodation away from home, and childcare. Furthermore, as the CIH research revealed, there is a significant impact on parents’ ability to participate in paid employment, with a median weekly income loss of ¤300 reported by those surveyed.
Children in Hospital Ireland is calling for a new social protection payment, specifically designed to assist parents with the financial impact of caring for a child who requires prolonged hospital care. As noted by the court, the limitations placed on entitlement to domiciliary care allowance represent a “policy choice” by the Government.
Now is the time to make a different choice and introduce a new payment to support these vulnerable families during the most difficult of times. – Yours, etc,
Children in Hospital Ireland,