Family win fight to access son’s benefits

THE parents of an autistic man who lives in a residential service have won a legal battle against the HSE over control of money owed to him by the state.

Jim Hyland, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, took the HSE to court to gain control of his 37-year-old son’s money so he could use it for his son’s benefit, rather than allow it to sit indefinitely in a central fund controlled by the HSE.

The money was owed to Colin Hyland under the Health Repayment Scheme 2006, which made amends for the illegal overcharging of long-stay residents in state-funded services.

Those overcharged were invited to make a claim to the HSE.

However, for people who have been deemed to lack “mental capacity” to make decisions, the HSE made claims on their behalf and the money is now held in Patients’ Private Property Accounts. There is €191 million being held in this account, which also receives social welfare payments on behalf of clients.

Mr Hyland’s challenge is the first of its kind, and the outcome has set a favourable precedent for others who might consider such a move.

The chairman of disability charity Balance, Mr Hyland said that the way he and his family had been treated during the case was “disgusting”, as they simply wanted Colin to enjoy the benefit of his money.

“We don’t know how that money will be spent after we are gone. It’s only right that we look after it on his behalf,” he added.

He also expressed shock at the way the HSE had described his son in court.

The HSE’s affidavit describes Colin Hyland as requiring care on a 24-hour basis.

“I say and believe that he requires constant supervision and assistance in relation to all activities of daily living, including dressing, eating and walking, by reason of disability,” the sworn statement says.

Mr Hyland said his son is very independent, goes horse-riding once a week and is able to get about by himself.

“I would completely dispute that description of my son,” said Mr Hyland. “That is not Colin at all. Where did the man who swore this affidavit get that from?”

The dispute over the money began in 2009, when Mr Hyland enquired about it. “We found out about this account in Tullamore, and that we had no access to it as parents,” he said.

“The Cope Foundation [where Colin lives five days a week] could draw from it, and if we requested then they could get money on his behalf. We said that wasn’t good enough, that is his money and we want to hold it for him.”

In July, the Circuit Court ordered that the money be transferred to Colin’s parents. Family solicitor Brian Long had argued that if the money had not been taken in the first place, Colin would have enjoyed the benefit of it in years gone by.

Furthermore, he said, the HSE was treating the money as a long-term investment for Colin’s future needs, which was not its original purpose, and it should therefore be available to his parents to use for his benefit now.


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