CLOSE to 600 infirm and disabled home help recipients in the greater Castleisland area will face drastic cuts to their home help hours as the government pushes ahead with plans to claw back €135million nationally through savage budget cuts.
Dozens of elderly clients in Castleisland, Knocknagoshel, Brosna, Scartaglin, Farranfore and Firies will have their home help clawed back to just 20 and 30 minute periods each day in a move that has angered home help workers and clients alike.
The plans for the Castleisland area were announced late last week as part of overall cost-cutting measures for the county, which will see 3,000 home help hours cut across Kerry. Castleisland SIPTU representative SIPTU's industrial organiser for home help workers, Ted Jenny, said the measures will be fought vigourously.
"Some clients are now being cut back to 20 minutes and half an hour and it's making it extremely difficult for both them and the home help workers. We have several sick, elderly and disabled clients who rely on their home help to get out of bed and get showered and dressed and that's almost impossible if you're trying to do it in 20 minutes."
Mr Kenny also questioned the legality of the savage cuts, saying that the majority of the areas's 160 home help workers signed new contracts after a labour court hearing several years ago, which he believes must be honoured as part of the Croke Park Agreement.
"We will be returning to court again, hopefully next week, to look at the issue of contracts which have to be honoured and we will await the outcome of that," Mr Kenny said.
Meanwhile, one home help worker in Castleisland - who asked not to be named - said the situation was becoming increasingly difficult for clients and workers alike.
"Our wages are being cut, whatever way you look at it, and we are getting less and less time with our clients. You sometimes find you just stay over the allocated time because you can't just get up and leave after 20 minutes. These people rely on you, not only for home help but for company, and it's these people who are suffering because of these cuts."