The Government decision to cut the Respite Care Grant is unfairly targeting those who actually work for their social welfare payments, a former Mayor of Galway City has said.
Former Green Party Galway City Councillor Niall Ó Brolcháin, whose wife Niamh is a carer for their eight-year-old autistic son, Cianán, said the decision not to target social welfare payments across the board and to target carers was not equitable.
The Respite Care Grant is paid to carers in order to pay for respite care, but need not necessarily be spent as such. The payment was slashed by 19 per cent from €1,700 to €1,375 under Budget 2013 in a controversial move, which has led to calls for the Government to reverse the measures.
Mr Ó Brolcháin said that, with the current economic difficulties, many families could not afford to use the Respite Grant for respite, but had to use it to pay bills.
He said that carers and their families would prefer if the Government would provide proper respite services for carers and their families.
“The respite grant is there due to lack of services. The obvious way to target things is to actually provide respite services as opposed to money, because money doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get proper respite,” he said.
Already, the €1,700 was insufficient to provide badly-needed respite to carers, who in many cases provide 24-hour care, he said.
“In a private place, it might give you a week or two at best, with the prices as they are at the moment. It doesn’t really give you the respite that you need anyway. It is a shortcut and now they’re cutting that shortcut,” he said.
Mr Ó Brolcháin said that the Government’s insistence on not reducing the core social welfare payment has led to the most vulnerable shouldering a disproportionate burden.
“As a family, including things like children’s allowance and so on, we’ve been cut by €1,500 a year, whereas a single man living with his parents, on social welfare has been cut by nothing,” he said.
“You are cutting the people who have the biggest struggle on their hands and that’s what the Government has done by not targeting social welfare cuts,” he said.
The former Galway Mayor said carers were unusual in that they were working for their payment and could let the State provide the care at “many times the expense” but chose not to.
“I’m not saying the Government doesn’t have to cut. I know it does, but the cuts aren’t equitable, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív has urged Labour and Fine Gael TDs in Galway to vote against the “callous” cuts to the respite care grant.
The Fianna Fáil Deputy said that 3,498 carers in Galway will be directly affected by the cut, with 292 receiving no other payment from the State.
“In the space of just 18 months, Fine Gael and Labour have returned to the disability sector again and again for deeply unfair cuts that have an enormous impact on the health and independence of people who desperately need support,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.