Sir, – The article "Father and son lose appeal over care allowance while child is in hospital", (Mary Carolan, News, July 22nd) reports on the Court of Appeal's rejection of an appeal against a decision to refuse payment of domiciliary care allowance in the case of a child who had spent a prolonged period in hospital.
The article indicates that the Attorney General and the Department of Social Protection cited as an argument for not granting the allowance the fact that this payment is made “to recognise the additional obligations and expense placed on parents caring for their child at home” and furthermore that the department stated that “the boy was in an ‘institution’ where his care was paid for with public funds”.
These claims by the State take no account of the reality that far from incurring fewer expenses while their child is in hospital parents and carers may face very significant additional costs.
When a child is in hospital, it is now not only the norm but it is expected by the hospital that at least one parent will be with the child for a significant portion of the day to support them; it is recognised that this also aids the child’s recovery.
The National Healthcare Charter for Children, published by the HSE, states that “every child has the right to have their parents with them at all times”. This reflects the spirit and the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The essential care which parents provide to their child in hospital inevitably gives rise to a whole range of expenses that a family would not usually face – food, travel and parking, childcare for other children, and, for parents whose home is at a distance from the hospital, accommodation.
Children in Hospital Ireland’s 2020 research report, Childhood Illness, Financial Stress, showed that these additional costs can be enormous, especially where children have prolonged or repeated stays in hospital.
The research also highlighted that for many families the impact of additional expenses is compounded by the fact that, like the father in the case mentioned in this article, at least one parent may have to give up work in order for them to support their child.
Furthermore, families have to deal with these financial difficulties when they are already facing the huge emotional stress and anxiety associated with their child’s illness.
Children in Hospital Ireland has long argued the case for a new statutory payment to assist families with the costs associated with a child’s stay in hospital. We again call on the Government to institute such a payment.
Thankfully, the number of families who face the expenses resulting from the hospitalisation of a child is not large.
It is surely not beyond the resources of a wealthy country such as Ireland to provide a specific payment that could alleviate at least the financial element of the stress they face as parents of a sick child. – Yours, etc,
Children in Hospital