Carers hopeful of respite cut reversal

More than 200 families will make a last ditch attempt to stop politicians from voting in favour of a planned 19% cut to the respite carers’ allowance during a Dáil protest today.

The public protest, which begins at 1pm, has been organised by the Carers’ Association, the members of which have are outraged at the cuts to the vital funding.

Under budget plans announced last week, the annual carers respite allowance — used to support people looking after loved ones with serious mental and physical health issues — has been cut from €1,700 to €1,375.

The 19% reduction is one of the most contentious cuts in Budget 2013 and has sparked outrage throughout the country.

However, it was described by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte as a “modest” change in the Dáil last Thursday, with the senior Labour official insisting there will be “no U-turn” over the weekend.

TDs are set to vote on the matter, which is part of the Social Welfare Bill, tomorrow.

However, the Carers’ Association is urging Government backbenchers to vote with opposition parties if they want to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Spokeswoman Catherine Cox said: “Family carers across Ireland are very frustrated and angry with this cut, and are asking for its immediate reversal.

“The respite money is so important for carers. We’ve had a lot of support from people on this and it’s hard to know, but we’re hopeful the protest can affect the vote.”

The 187,112 family carers in Ireland provide a combined 900,000 hours of unpaid support every day.

If the State employed people to provide this work, it would cost the taxpayer about €4bn every year.

The 2011 census found that 20% of carers provide 43 hours of unpaid help for their loved ones every week, which in many cases is in addition to holding down part-time work.

On announcing the budget plans last Wednesday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin stressed they were not making any changes to the separate carers’ benefit and allowance payments.

However, figures from earlier this year show between 7,000 and 9,000 people were being put on waiting lists to receive these additional supports.

* www.carersireland.com

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