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What €325 cut means for one boy with autism


The respite care grant is soon eaten up by the costs associated with having an autistic child, writes Maeve Sheehan

IN the corridors of power, the fight to reverse the cut to the respite care grant has moved on to dissent in the Labour Party and whether its leader Eamon Gilmore is in trouble. In the real world, meanwhile, thousands of families will be sitting down with pens and papers and bills to figure out what impact the Government decision to cut €325 from the €1,700 grant will have on their lives.

The grant means different things to different families. It’s paid out in one lump sum, usually in June, to all registered carers. The payment is supposed to be in lieu of residential services to relieve those providing round-the-clock care to loved ones. Deirdre O’Driscoll, chief executive of Care World, provider of care and respite services to families and the HSE, said the reduced grant of €1,375 will buy one week’s live-in respite care (€1,025) with enough left over to buy extra care hours, which cost roughly €25 an hour.

“This is not simply a cheque that goes into a private care company. It is more of an integrated approach where the family comes up with a solution that’s best for them,” said Deirdre O’Driscoll. “They may not be purchasing home care with that grant. They may pay lump-sum bills.”

It’s basically up to families to choose how to spend the money. For one Galway family, the respite care grant means two hours’ extra therapy every week for their profoundly autistic son.

Cianan, 8, is the second youngest of Niall and Niamh O Brolchain’s five children. With an intellectual disability such as autism, the more training and therapy a child can get, the better his chances. “We do everything we can to help him,” said Niall O Brolchain.

The family have five children aged between five and 19. Niall is a former Green Party

councillor and Mayor of Galway, and was briefly a senator – although not for long enough to qualify for a pension. He left politics after the last election to set up his own e-commerce business, and is doing a postgraduate course in digital marketing.

Niamh is a full-time carer to Cianan, who needs 24-hour attention, and is a recipient of the carer’s allowance and the means-tested household benefits package that contributes to the costs of phone and heating. The O Brolchains count themselves lucky in that Cianan attends a local school where teachers are trained to care for children with autism, and has an assistance dog, a Golden Retriever, who has made an immeasurable difference to his life. Even with the speech and occupational therapy he gets at school, Cianan still needs more.

The O Brolchains pay either €30 or €40 an hour – depending on the qualification of the tutor – for a two-hour session at home each week. The cost of those two-hour sessions over a year comes in at a minimum of €3,000. So it’s easy to see how the €1,700 respite care grant would be eaten up.

There are other costs on top that again, the kind that come with having a profoundly autistic child. The cost of cleaning walls; of repairing or replacing household goods that have been smashed; of regular visits to the doctor for illness or injuries, self-inflicted or otherwise.

A child with autism can be “extremely disruptive” to a family, said Niall. “I know in lots of other areas of care it’s difficult too but autism can be very disruptive at times. As somebody put it recently, a lot of autistic kids are frightened of everything at certain stages of their lives. The merest change of routine can cause havoc, [leading to behaviour such as] throwing things on the ground.

“On an average day, you will have 10 to 15 per cent of the stuff you buy in the shop each week ending up on the floor. Things like flour, jam, we’d buy a number of cartons of orange juice and we’d find that he’s poured them all into vinegar or something. . . and he’ll very kindly come around to everyone in the family and offer it to us.”

The constant watchful caring doesn’t stop at bed time, either. For years, Cianan didn’t sleep. “It impacts on the family in a very, very big way. Anyone with autism will tell you a similar story,” said Niall.

Their son’s condition also takes its toll on their life as a

ANALYSIS PAGE 28

couple. “We can’t have a normal babysitter. We hardly ever get out. It is very expensive to arrange holidays or going anywhere. We rarely do,” he said.

The family is down €1,500 a year since the Budget, between the cuts to the respite grant, child benefit and cuts to the household benefits package.

But the money spent on Cianan’s therapy and his education has made an enormous difference to himself and his family. For a child who did not speak until the age of five, he not only attends Abalta special school but is also able to go to Galway Educate Together national school for a few hours each week.

What the O Brolchains ask politicians to remember is that the respite grant is not just a hand-out – it is paid to families because the State services to look after their loved ones are inadequate. “The respite grant is given in lieu of services because they don’t have enough respite to cater for every person who is entitled to it in the country,” said Niamh.

Parents of children with autism are paying out a hell of a lot more money than is coming in from the Government. “It really isn’t close to enough to giving them the kind of care they need,” said Niall.

“What is much more useful is to have proper respite care services in the first place, where people can step or there are properly managed places where you can bring your child and there will be people on hand to deal with that. Then you wouldn’t need the grants.”

The Department of Social Protection has argued that the cut to respite care will save €26m, at a time when the core pay of carers has not been touched, that the numbers of people qualifying for benefits is rising, and all of this is contributing to the drain on the public purse.

The most recent survey on how families use the respite care grant is six years old and way out of date, in terms of the economic climate in which carers now live.

The survey of more than 2,000 carers found that more than one in four families used the grant simply to cope with their day-to-day financial expenses. After that, about 16 per cent of carers used the money to take a holiday while only 6 per cent of those surveyed used the money to buy in respite care for their loved one. At the time of the survey, the respite care grant was €1,200. (It was increased to €1,700 in 2008.)

But times have changed. During the wave of protests outside Leinster House since the cut to the respite care grant was introduced, family after family spoke of using the money to pay heating or electricity or food bills.

According to carers groups, using the money to fund actual physical respite care for your loved one is at risk of becoming a luxury in itself.

via What €325 cut means for one boy with autism – National News – Independent.ie.

via What €325 cut means for one boy with autism – National News – Independent.ie.

Health Concerns


Dublin concerns about ambulance services.

Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has said that cuts to ambulance services in Dublin city, county and its hinterland “will inevitably put lives at risk and lead to longer response times from a vastly reduced service”.

He made the comments after he was told that on Tuesday the Tallaght area was to be short of an ambulance at Airton Road between the hours of 7pm and 7am.

 

 Dublin Mater Hospital

Concerns over infection risk as Mater tells staff: ‘Wash your own scrubs’

MEDICAL STAFF in the emergency department at the Mater hospital have been told to buy and clean their own ‘scrubs’ as part of hospital spending cutbacks – a move some staff fear poses a major infection risk.

 

Dublin St Michael’s

208 adults with an intellectual disability live with parents aged 70 or over in Dublin, writes PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent

THE BIGGEST provider of services for the intellectually disabled in Dublin has warned of “devastating implications” for families of any further cuts in December’s budget.

St Michael’s House says it is deeply concerned about the prospect of a fifth year of cuts as part of continuing austerity next year.

The organisation has launched a campaign to get the Government to consider the impact of cuts next year before imposing a fifth successive yearly reduction in its budget.

 

 

Cork

PEOPLE IN WEST Cork angry over the loss of their fourth ambulance are to push a stretcher bed from Skibbereen to Cork University Hospital in protest later this week.

The four-day long protest will take place from 17 – 20 October (Wednesday – Saturday) and will involve a group of relay teams taking it in turns to push the bed.

LAOIS

Laois T.D. Sean Fleming has absolutely no regrets over his decision to storm out of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee meeting on Tuesday, October 9, where he labelled health officials as “a disgrace and not fit for office.”

Speaking to the Leinster Express Deputy Fleming fumed that it was “outrageous” for the Department of Health Secretary General Dr. Ambrose McLoughlin and new H.S.E. Chief Executive Tony O’Brien to attempt to “stonewall the P.A.C. and the people of Ireland” by refusing to answer questions on their 2012 budget overspend.

 

WEXFORD

A public protest against the closure of an operating theater at Wexford General Hospital was held outside the hospital last Saturday afternoon.

Councilor Anthony Kelly of Sinn Fein is calling on Wexford’s Oireachtas members to come out immediately and call for this decision to be reversed.

National

IN THE 2011 Programme for Government, the Labour Party and Fine Gael say additional funding will be provided each year for the care of older people.

“This funding will go to more residential places, more home-care packages and the delivery of more home help and other professional community care services

 

Noonan Letting the Cat Out of the Bag


The statement today by the minister for finance, Michael Noonan, calling on the European Central Bank to make a “declaration of intent” about some kind of solution in relation to the Anglo-Irish Bank promissory notes is a clear sign of desperation by a government that has neither the political will nor the courage to challenge this illegitimate and odious anti-people debt dumped on the backs of our people.

The Irish establishment has been claiming almost every time they come back from these jamborees that they have struck a deal; but no sooner have they their backsides back in their Mercs than their “deal” unravels.

This is the first time that any Irish minister has publicly admitted that there is strong link between the government’s budget strategy and the repayments of this odious debt. This he did when he stated: “It would help me doing the budgetary arithmetic if something could be arranged” in relation to the promissory notes.

The sick, the poor, pensioners, those who need and use government services and all working people are paying and will increasingly pay an unbearable price for a debt that is not the people’s. Our people are being crucified to pay the debts of bankers and speculators and to keep the EU and Irish elite in the wealthy life-style they believe is theirs by right.

There is no shortage of capital in Europe: it is estimated that nearly €3 trillion is accumulated within the EU that cannot be invested do to the fact that there are to few investment opportunities outside of financial speculation. All this unused capital is in the hands of the very same banks and speculators that demand the payment of this odious debt.

How can the Labour Party stand over massive cuts in spending while making the people pay for this corporate debt. �What we need from this government is a declaration of intent to stop paying this debt, to repudiate it as an anti-democratic imposition on our people by the external troika in co-operation with our own internal troika.

via Irish Left Review | Noonan Letting the Cat Out of the Bag.

via Irish Left Review | Noonan Letting the Cat Out of the Bag.

Mapping Out a Clear Alternative


The Nevin Economic Research Institute, ICTU’s think-tank, has looked into the budgetary future and finds there is a better way of doing things. They have utilised all the tools of economic analysis to show that, what they call Plan B, is a far better way of doing business than what the Government intends. Their budgetary proposals would remove the need for cuts in public services and social protection, increase investment, and keep more people at work than under the Government’s plans – and all this while maintaining the same pace of deficit reduction. It doesn’t make grandiose claims (billions in soaking the rich, hundreds of thousands more at work, etc.). It merely shows that there is an alternative that is better. This is an analysis and a programme that all progressives – in civil society, trade unions, political parties (including the Labour Party) – can rally around, while providing that commodity we need the most – hope.

NERI bases its proposals on a sophisticated model – the HERMIN model which is used by other economists (see here for another example).

‘The HERMIN model uses macro-economic data to allow researchers to bring together different production sectors of the economy in a complex model that relates producer, consumer, investor and labour market behaviour to external developments in trade, prices and currency movements.’

I’m not suggesting that NERI’s modelling is superior to any other, or that we should become seduced by models (all the models in the world didn’t foresee the recession in the first place). However, it shows that NERI’s programme is not a wish list or some back-of-the-envelope job. It is a serious piece of work that deserves the same consideration as other programmes and analysis.

So what are they suggesting?  Namely, that the Government’s fiscal adjustments should be turned on its head.

The Government proposes that spending cuts make up 64 percent of the total fiscal adjustments. NERI proposes that tax increases make up 85 percent of the total adjustments.

The Government intends to cut public investment by €550 million. NERI proposes to reverse this cut and add an additional €500 million. Under NERI, there will be €1 billion more investment flowing into the economy, increasing its capacity to grow and putting people back to work.

The Government intends a fiscal adjustment of €3.5 billion. But because the tax and investment dynamic produces a better outcome, NERI proposes a fiscal adjustment package of €2.7 billion.

So what are the results

NERI Plan B 1

Under NERI’s Plan B, GDP rises by more than €2 billion above the Government’s projection.  There will be 21,000 more people at work under NERI’s proposals.  And the deficit will be the same.  That’s the effect of a progressive, investment-based, pro-growth economic strategy.

What’s particularly interesting – and here I’m working on my own calculations, so any mistake is mine, not NERI’s – is that not only are most budget cuts removed, the end effect of NER’s strategy is that we would be able to spend more on public services and social protection.  This is defined by what is called the ‘primary current budget’.  This refers to the current budget (spending on public services, social protection, wages, etc. – excluding the capital budget) minus interest payments.  I have used investment as a substitute for the capital budget.

NERI Plan B 2

Not only is primary current spending higher under the NERI programme than the Government’s in 2013 (€1.3 billion higher), it is slightly higher than this year and almost returns us to 2011 levels.

This opens up the scope for further increases in spending on public services and social protection by re-directing spending within the current budget – savings on public service efficiencies, removal of regressive spending, and reduced unemployment costs.

NERI proposes a menu of progressive tax measures that could be introduced which would spare low and average income earners and, therefore, would limit the damage to the domestic economy.  I just want to draw attention to three measures under corporation tax:

  • End the manipulation of carrying forward of losses – NERI claims these are of dubious economic impact and regressive
  • Abolish/Reform the treatment of undistributed reserves where by company directors can manipulate the system to drawdown tax-free lump sums of hundreds of thousands of Euros on retirement.
  • Reform interest deductions – by imposing a limit on interest paid by companies as a percentage of a company’s assets. This would prevent public subsidisation of speculative debt.

These innovative measures wouldn’t impact on the corporate tax rate (though the Government has claimed everything is on the table, the corporate tax is not – in fact, its’ not even let into the dining room) but it would remove inequitable tax avoidance.

NERI has presented us an authoritative template upon which can rally the broadest possible coalition against failed austerity policies.  That doesn’t mean progressives will agree with everything contained in the latest Quarterly Observer.  I have a few quibbles with details.  But you don’t build coalitions around details, you build them around principles.  NERI’s principles of investment and tax-driven fiscal adjustments have been shown to work.

Not a bad day’s work.

via Notes On The Front.

via Notes On The Front.

Howlin in climbdown over €1.5bn public pay allowances


PUBLIC Spending Minister Brendan Howlin is backing down on his threat to cut some of the €1.5bn worth of allowances paid to public servants as the Coalition squabbles over health cuts.

The development comes as tensions simmered within the Coalition over Health Minister Dr James Reilly‘s €130m worth of health service cuts.

But there is not expected to be any climbdown on the package of health cuts, including reductions in home help and elderly care, despite the protests of Labour Party backbenchers.

The cuts will be discussed by ministers at the Cabinet’s first meeting after the summer break today.

Dr Reilly will still face a motion of no confidence when the Dail returns.

Mr Howlin has climbed down substantially on cuts to allowances, some of which he admits are “historic”.

Howlin in climbdown over €1.5bn public pay allowances – National News – Independent.ie.

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