More than 150 parents of children with special needs marched on the Dáil yesterday to highlight payment cuts they say will damage the quality of their children’s lives.
The group wants to reverse the stopping of domiciliary care payments and is seeking a meeting with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to discuss the issue.
The group claimed the entire application and review system for the payment was flawed and needed to be overhauled.
The allowance is paid to children with a disability who need more care and attention than children of the same age without a condition.
Last year, 403 reviews of the payment were undertaken. While 164 cases were considered eligible, 187 were not. A total of 53 reviews were pending at the year end.
One of the protesters, Eileen O’Toole, from Greystones, Co Wicklow, has four children with autism, ranging in age from 5 to 12.
Her oldest son Dillon sang the Labi Siffre hit ‘Something Inside So Strong’ at the gates of Leinster House.
“Dillon represents all the children with autism whose voices cannot be heard,” said Eileen, who added that the allowance paid to Dillon’s three brothers was up for review in July.
The Carers’ Association area manager from Carlow and Kilkenny, Pat Grogan, said the domiciliary allowance amounted to about €309 a month.
“Most of the parents I know are using the money to pay for speech and language therapy and other therapies that should be available to them through the HSE.
“I know that times are hard but you should not be hitting vulnerable people.
“I think the minister should take stock of what is happening here and take responsibility for the allowances being withdrawn without any face to face evaluation,” he said.
While the minister had extended the time for returning review forms from 21 to 60 days, anomalies still existed, he said.
Mr Grogan said some parents were being reviewed for the payment after just one year.
Another protester, Lorraine Ryan from Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, said the domiciliary care allowance for her six-year-old autistic son, Maurice, was cut in January this year.
Ms Ryan, who has also lost the carers’ allowance, said the protest was to let the Government know they were not going to go away.
“We want to see changes made to current review and assessment process. We think it is unfair, has many flaws and should be changed.”
Another mother, Genevieve Fagan, from Portlaoise, Co Laoise, was protesting with her husband and three daughters, Carly, 7, Lucy, 5, and Gracie, 3.
“I have to prove, once again, that Lucy has autism as the payment is up for review in June,” she said. “The Government is trying to show that children with autism don’t have a disability when it is obvious that they do. It is so hurtful.”
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