AN elderly woman caring for her special needs sister has been forced to endure a year-long battle for a vital carer’s allowance because of a growing backlog of applications for the essential state financial support, it has been claimed.
The Irish Examiner has learned that the woman, who is from the mid-Tipperary area, made an initial application to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for a carer’s allowance in April 2008.
On 11 July last year, the department wrote to inform her that the application had been turned down as her sister was “not receiving full-time care and attention”. The woman rejected the claim on the grounds she was the only person caring for her disabled sister and the e220.50 a week or the half-rate payment was vital if her sister was to continue living in the community.
However, despite lodging an appeal against the decision last September, the Tipperary resident only received confirmation on 31 March that the appeal would be heard.
Describing the 11-month delay in receiving a final decision on whether the individual would receive the financial support as a “clear example of how bad delays are becoming”, Fine Gael North Tipperary TD Noel Coonan said it is essential that vulnerable people are not forced to endure unnecessary waits for state support services. “This is a clear example of how bad things are getting. If you ask the minister she will say these delays don’t happen, but here is one example, and it is one of a growing number.
“No reason for why this case has taken 11 months has been given to this woman, the family still haven’t been told, but she has had to wait nearly a year for any decision,” said the opposition TD.
News of the year-long carer’s allowance delay follows calls from an alliance of support groups for vulnerable sections of society to ensure state support is not targeted in any future economy-induced cutbacks, following yesterday’s Jobseeker Allowance and Early Childcare Supplement support changes. Reacting to recent comments from IBEC and other employers groups that social welfare funds should be cut by as much as 3%, the umbrella group — which includes the Irish Hospice Foundation, the Carers Association, and the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland — said any cuts would put countless individuals already struggling with the downturn into the poverty trap.
“Without the social supports provided by Government to older people, over 86% of older people would be at risk of poverty.
“This situation is even worse for older people living alone, where 96% would be at risk of poverty without the social supports... Any cuts to welfare and social supports would have a devastating impact on older people,” said the group’s spokesperson Patricia Conboy.
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