UNDER-fire Health Minister James Reilly has rowed back on controversial plans to cut personal assistant services to the disabled.
He has instructed the Health Service Executive (HSE) to make adjustments elsewhere to work towards shaving the total disability budget.
"The minister has told the HSE to distribute adjustments across the sector with a focus on cutting administration, training and travel costs, and better cash management by agencies involved," said a spokesman for the Department of Health.
"The minister has requested that the HSE work with agencies to minimise the impact on services within the disability sector."
Those in receipt of personal assistant care will continue to receive the service to suit their needs.
A group of people with disabilities picketed the Dail yesterday in protest at Dr Reilly's proposals to slash health services by €130 million this year.
The demonstrators, who included members of the Disability Federation of Ireland, threatened to return today if the minister did not reconsider his initial plans.
Dr Reilly told fellow ministers during a lengthy Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon that, with regard to home care packages and home help hours, individual cases would be assessed.
"The minister will receive regular reports from the HSE on the measures and will keep regularly reviewing the application of these measures to ensure that they are being applied as fairly and sympathetically as possible," the spokesman added.
Earlier, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore launched a blistering attack on Fianna Fail after the party warned it would table a motion of no confidence in Dr Reilly.
In a display of coalition unity, the Labour leader defended the Fine Gael TD and accused the Opposition party of hypocrisy over its criticism of the health service.
"They left this country in horrific debt and, in particular, their handling of the health service was appalling," said the Tanaiste.
"So what Fianna Fail have to say about the health service is just a pure act of hypocrisy."
Senior figures in the coalition have played down rumours of a rift between the parties when some TDs spoke out over Mr Reilly's plans to slash €130 million from health services.
But yesterday Labour TD Patrick Nulty demanded the Dail be recalled before its offical September 18 return date to debate Dr Reilly's proposed cuts, to ensure the most vulnerable members of society are protected.
Before going into the Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach said they had a packed agenda with serious work ahead.
"The silly season is over," said Mr Kenny.
"The Government has a really packed agenda with very difficult decisions and choices to make and challenging times ahead."
The day before, opposition parties Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein called on the minister to resign amid claims he is not fit to continue serving in his role.
They have accused Dr Reilly of attacking the vulnerable with his latest raft of measures, and also criticised his recent handling of the resignation of former Health Service Executive chief Cathal Magee.
They warned they would both table a motion of no confidence in Dr Reilly which, if passed, cannot force him to step down but would put pressure on his party to consider his position.
Within the Department of Health, Dr Reilly had proposed to scale back frontline services. Home help and home care, agency work and overtime will be among the worst hit in the string of cuts, which could see older people and the disabled hit particularly hard.
There will also be 50,000 fewer medical card holders.
Dr Reilly has also said savings could not be properly addressed without looking at Croke Park, the 2009 agreement which guaranteed public sector reform in return for core pay being protected.