Family Carers Ireland has said it is "disappointed" at the apparent shelving of a waste waiver that would have limited the annual costs of disposing of domestic waste for vulnerable people with a condition such as lifelong or long-term medical incontinence.
The organisation said the previous government had carried out work on a proposed scheme that had even gone as far as setting aside a multi-million euro budget for the plan, but the new Government appeared to have dropped the idea.
The issue had been raised in a parliament question by Labour deputy Sean Sherlock. In response, the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, said his Department had been "examining this issue in detail for some time", but said, "there are complex issues at play in this area, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question".
Minister Ryan said pay-by-weight charging had not been introduced and there had been relative price stability in the market. He also referred to the recently-launched new national waste policy, A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, which he said contained "enhanced consumer protection requirements" and better monitoring of the market to ensure no changes occur in the relative price stability.
Mr Sherlock said families with disabilities and older people with significant health issues would be "disappointed" to learn that a waiver towards the cost of waste appeared to be off the agenda, saying: "There is no reference to families or people with disabilities in the Waste Action Plan for a circular economy. There is no reference to a waste waiver."
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Climate, and Communications said: "There has never been a waiver planned for the circumstances mentioned.
"As has been pointed out in the response by the Minister, 'pay by weight' was not introduced and instead an incentivised charging model is in place. The incentivised model gives flexibility to waste collectors to provide options for their customers which meet their needs."
However, Catherine Cox, head of communications and carer engagement with Family Carers Ireland, said news that a waiver was no longer being considered came as a disappointment.
"While Family Carers Ireland welcome the increase in the Carers Support Grant in the recent budget 2021, an annual increase of €150 will do little to compensate for the myriad of additional costs incurred by carers during the lockdown and beyond," she said.
"It appears these social welfare announcements were based on a number of inaccurate assumptions, namely that the €150 increase in the annual Carers Support Grant would be sufficient to cover the additional costs incurred by family carers during the pandemic, measures such as the increase in the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance would protect family carers and mitigate the effects of Carbon Tax increases, and existing carer schemes are broad enough to ensure all family carers experiencing hardship are protected and provided for."