Sunday 25 February 2018

Our vulnerable elderly pay big price for selfish trade unions

eilis o'hanlon

Judged purely on the good that they do in the community, home helps should be reclassified as one of the essential services alongside the fire brigade -- and the most striking thing is how little it all costs.

For a mere €195m a year, the most vulnerable elderly and sick people in the country are given a sense of comfort, company and security far beyond any calculable monetary value.

Now the HSE say that it is to cut the budget for home help between now and the end of the year by €8m, amounting to over 400,000 hours.

It's not only politically cack-handed of the Government to invite public outrage in order to save such a piffling amount of money, it's also financially illiterate.

Allowing old people to live in their own homes not only increases their sense of well-being, it saves the country a fortune in nursing home fees. More than that, it's an insult to people who have worked hard for this country and are not to blame for its current economic woes.

But how does Siptu have the nerve to condemn the proposed cuts as "morally unacceptable" and "illogical"? What planet are they living on?

The €75m saving in public sector allowances which the Government was seeking this year would have paid for cuts in home help nine times over.

Had they been made, the budget for home helps could even have been increased. The Government, though, couldn't find that saving. In fact, out of 1,100 public sector allowances, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin was only able to cut one, amounting to a measly €3m.

It wasn't because the allowances were justified or because taking them away would have caused serious hardship to those in receipt of them. The only reason the Government couldn't make that saving was because the unions threatened strikes if those allowances were touched.

That it was a bad call by the Government to target the old and sick instead does not absolve unions for culpability in this scandal.

The most vulnerable are to be deprived of essential services solely in order that a few pampered Lords and Ladies Fauntleroy who already enjoy guaranteed jobs and pensions can carry on being in receipt of such frivolities as an underwear allowance for female soldiers, or allowances for changing photocopier toner and franking the post.

That's what unions do. They protect the privileges of their own members at the expense of other people's jobs and services -- and if old people have to pay the price, then so be it.

That isn't socialism. That isn't social partnership. It's monstrous hypocrisy.

Union bosses are preying on those too weak to defend themselves in order to maintain an indefensible system which prioritises the strong.

The unions are actually planning a campaign against the cuts. If they had any shame, they'd be picketing themselves.

Sunday Independent

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