Thursday 26 April 2018

Carers demand more support from Budget

Alan and Joanne Powell with their daughter, Siobhán
Alan and Joanne Powell with their daughter, Siobhán

Niamh Keegan

COUNTY Wexford's 5,000 family carers are demanding that the next budget gives them more practical support, to enable them to maintain the high level of home care they provide.

Thousands of 'invisible workers' in the county provide a high level of care in the home to ill, frail or disabled family members.

Marion Mahon, of Wexford Family Carers Association, said local carers are struggling with recent changes to the Housing Adaptation Grant for people with a disability, as well as cuts to the Housing Aid for Older People and the Mobility Aid grants in 2014.

'Most of us would want to live at home with our loved ones, if we were terminally ill, disabled or infirm, so it is very important that family carers get statutory rights to home care services,' she said.

'In Co. Wexford there are just six beds in Ard Lios in Gorey, for anyone under the age of 65 years needing respite care, so the only option left to families needing a break is to put their loved one in a nursing home for the elderly,' she added.

According to Marion, the government's new property tax and water charges as well as and other stealth taxes all chip away at the weekly carers allowance of €204.

Carers who are not entitled to a fuel allowance do receieve an annual respite grant of €1,375 for a holiday from their full-time caring role.

'That money is more often than not spent on extra heating costs in the winter for the bed-bound family member,' she said.

Joanne Powell, from Fethard on Sea, has been caring for her severely mentally and physically disabled 30-year-old daughter Siobhán since she was born. She is adamant that since nursing homes are exempt from governement water and property taxes, that she should not have to pay them either.

'Carers in the home like me already save the government a fortune and they know it,' she said.

Siobhán, who is wheelchair bound, has no language, is unable to feed her self and also suffers from epilepsy and kidney failure.

Joanne, as her full time carer, gets just four hours of home support on a Saturday, which she uses to do the family shopping.

'Its not as difficult now that my husband Alan,a sailor, is home from sea after 25 years of to-ing and fro-ing, however it has been hard, and we are both getting on in years now,' she said.

Since the age of two, Siobhán has attended Ard Aoibhinn Day Care Centre in Wexford, for five days a week, but she has only been transported by the HSE bus in recent years.

'For years I drove her the 50 miles there and back, and last year the HSE wanted to remove her bus-pass for two days a week, so I was forced to fight to keep it, by going public,' she said.

The courageous mother ended up in the national papers as well as featuring on morning TV programmes of RTE and TV3 over the bus pass, which ultimately Siobhan was allowed to keep.

'I am 60 years of age now and I am simply not able anymore, because for 30 years of my life I haven't been able to do anything and I also believe that children are entitled to their own independence as well, however limited,' she added.

Joanne pointed out that obtaining full time residential care for their daughter would be extremely difficult.

'Just to get on a waiting list for full time residential care, one of the parents would have to be dead,' she said.

Enniscorthy Guardian