Parents and carers of autistic children are to protest in Dublin and Cork today over ongoing issues with a welfare payment they say is being unfairly cut off.
Campaigners have been highlighting the issue of the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) payment in recent months. The parents of autistic children in particular feel they are being discriminated against.
The protest has been organised by a group of carers of mostly autistic children who believe they are being discriminated against.
They said the DCA, which assists children who need extra care, has been unfairly stopped and, as a result, their carer’s allowance and household benefits package are being lost.
Spokesperson and parent Karina Doherty said decisions were being made by medical assessors who never set eyes on the children involved. She said the system needed to be updated and assessed more fairly.
“They are making these decisions and overriding professional reports being forwarded to the department of social protection,” said Ms Doherty. “These are psychological, speech and language, occupational therapy and paediatrician reports outlining the need for extra care.
“A lot of these parents cannot work outside of the home and this is their only income in some instances. I am a mum to three girls. Two are autistic. I get DCA for one but it is probably only a matter of time before I get a review. We have just been refused for our youngest daughter, yet she has same diagnosis as her sister.”
The Carers’ Association said it backs the protests and expects about 100 people at each. The association said the parents were highlighting cuts they believe are flaws in the application and review process for the allowance.
Figures from the Department of Social Protection show the DCA is paid to more than 24,000 parents or guardians in respect of 26,000 children at a cost of about €100m.
In 2011, 403 reviews carried out, 187 families were found to be no longer eligible and 52 cases have yet to be finalised, the department said.
Also last year, 2,420 people appealed their decision — both reviews and first time applications — and 1,259 (52%) of those appeals were successful.
Meanwhile, the mother of an autistic child in Kerry has written to Health Minster James Reilly expressing her concern over the state of the services in Kerry.
Mary Kelly Godley, from Tarbert in north Kerry, told Dr Reilly if he wanted to cut advisory expenses, he could invite her to Dublin and “I will tell you for free what the problems are for autistic children and adults in this country... and how best to tackle them”.
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