Budget 2013 Social Protection: Call to reverse 20% cut to respite support for carers

Pressure is already mounting on Government to reverse its 20% cut to “lifeline” respite support for carers, after the move was slammed as a “back-door attack on disability” which flies in the face of promises to protect the service.

Leading disability groups have hit out at cuts to families caring for loved ones announced in yesterday’s budget, saying it is another sign that the most vulnerable are being forced to pay for the mistakes of others.

Under plans announced by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, the existing annual €1,700 payment to carers — which allows them to take short periods away from the stress of looking after loved ones — has been cut to €1,375.

Inclusion Ireland chief executive Paddy Connolly said the €325 cut to 77,000 families nationwide — 20,000 of which receive no other state help — is a slap in the face.

Putting further pressure on the already under-fire Health Minister James Reilly, he said the move contradicted previous claims disability services would not be touched — and must be reversed immediately.

“Inclusion Ireland has been expressing its concern for some months that respite care has been under steady attack as part of the austerity measures.

“This cut is a back-door attack on disability provision despite a commitment from the minister for health that savings in the disability budget would not affect community services.

“Respite care is one of the few provisions that provide families with choice and flexibility in meeting the support needs of their disabled family member and the broader family.

“Government must reverse the cut to the respite care grant, the saving from which represents a tiny fraction of the overall budgetary adjustment, and fulfil a longstanding commitment to introduce a comprehensive ‘cost of disability payment’ which reflects the real cost of disability.”

While the existing weekly carers allowance and carers benefits rates will be maintained, the call for a U-turn on the respite payment cut was echoed by the Carers Association. The group’s spokes-woman, Catherine Cox, said the budget move was “extremely disappointing news” which will only heap even more problems onto an already struggling section of society.

“Despite working seven days a week, 365 days a year, carers are entitled to no holidays and no breaks.

“We continue to see a huge disparity between policy and practice on the ground where core services to family carers such as home help hours continue to be slashed.

“This is while Government makes promises of supporting, valuing and empowering family carers,” she said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the respite issue as “one of the cruellest and most callous cuts in the budget”.

“It is devastating to the families that have to avail of it. It also exposes how far the Government has strayed from its commitment to fairness in this budget,” he said.

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