'People with disabilities and carers don't seem to count' - woman with MS leads protest seeking better respite access
A WOMAN who has Multiple Sclerosis was among those to lead a protest demanding better access to respite care and homecare packages, claiming some families are forced to change loved ones on floors of some centres today.
Linda Ahern, who has Multiple Sclerosis, joined hundreds today to campaign for more access to respite care and homecare packages, claiming some families are forced to change loved ones on floors of some centres.
Ms Ahern, 52, from Templelogue, south Dublin, was one of the architects of the protest today which saw those with disabilities and some carers, campaign for better access to services.
"We are all looking for better respite," Ms Ahern told Independent.ie.
"There are very few packages. And there's only one suitable respite centre for complete wheelchair access and that's in Roscommon.
"It's miles away from anywhere. The respite centres in Dublin aren't suitable.
"The doors are too narrow, there aren't always hoists or suitable beds for people in wheelchairs.
"And some people are having to change their loved ones on the floor (of bedrooms) of some respite centres, as there are no wheelchair accessible changing rooms.
"There's no room. And then there are all the people who aren't able to get any respite at all, or they aren't getting enough homecare hours.
"It makes me so angry that we are being treated so badly by the State."
Ms Ahern started to develop MS around 16 years ago and she wanted to send home a message to the country today. That every single citizen will one day age and many will develop illnesses or disabilities and they too may need the use of such services.
"I go to respite two times a year," Ms Ahern said.
"But for everything I get from the HSE, I have to fight for - for respite, for anything.
"My husband Dan is my carer. He needs me to go to respite because as a carer, he needs a break too. If carers don't get breaks, they will end up getting very down and that's no good for anyone.
"This makes me very sad, of course, I get down about it, the fact people with disabilities and carers don't seem to count.
"But I can't allow myself to stay down. I have to fight for my rights and for every other disabled person's rights in this country."
One of the groups attending the protest, CRC in Clontarf, north Dublin, said it had surveyed people with disabilities and found that there were discrepancies in the respite and home care packages some received compared to others.
The protest drew huge attention outside the Dail with drivers beeping in support of the crowd and several TDs, including People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald McDonald, coming out to speak to campaigners.