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Cut politicians' wages to pay home helps – Doherty

18 October, 2012 - by Pearse Doherty TD


Speaking during a Sinn Féin Private Members Motion debate in the Dáil last night Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty called on the Government to “cut the wages of TDs and Senators and use the money to reinstate the 250,000 hours of home help cuts.”

Deputy Doherty said;

“The plan to cut home help hours by 450,000 hours is cruel and heartless. This will mean a further loss of 20,000 home help hours between now and the end of the year for people in my county. That is almost 2,000 hours per week. That is on top of the 25,000 hours that have been taken away from that county so far this year.

“Behind every single one of those figures is an individual with a particular need for care. Many of these individuals have been in receipt of home help support for many years. As the HSE, on the government’s instruction, has decided to cut more hours, they have been assessed time and again and it has been clear that there is a need for them to have the hours they have.

“What the minister is doing is cruel and heartless. The minister and government deputies say they have no option but I will give the minister an option. He says he wants to save €8 million by cutting 450,000 hours of home help supports for very vulnerable people. I would tell him to dig into his pockets.

“There are 226 members in this house and the Seanad. We could reduce ministers’ pay to €100,000, Deputies’ pay to €75,000 and Senators’ pay to €60,000. That leaves every single one of us with a very generous income and would save €4.3 million – over 250,000 home help hours.

“Politics is all about choices. I would rather ask for my pay and that of Deputies and Senators to be cut instead of taking away that basic need of vulnerable people to stay in their homes so they can live their lives to the fullest.

“That is the choice facing Fine Gael and Labour. If they make the wrong decision it is nothing more than cowardly behaviour to attack the most vulnerable people in our society.”

ENDS

Full text pf Deputy Dopherty’s speech:

Deputy Pearse Doherty: I do not know who the Minister is trying to kid with his last statement. It is a bit rich for him as Minister for Health to come here and state this is his guiding policy while at the same time he has overseen taking 1 million hours of home care support from these very vulnerable people. It is an absolutely appalling decision by the Minister, the Government, the Cabinet and the parties which will support the decision this evening. Throughout the country people are angry at the decisions the Minister is implementing in the Department of Health. I hope that in my county on Friday we will see thousands of people taking to the streets to protest against the cuts to home help hours. The march will leave St Conal's Hospital in Letterkenny and go to the market square. I am sure there will be people from all walks of life, including those who support other political parties and no political parties. What will unite everyone is the fact that we are completely opposed to the appalling decision by the Government to cut home help hours.

My colleagues who have already spoken have outlined the facts, but they cannot be overstated. A total of €8 million is to be cut from the home help budget between now and the end of the year. An additional €1.7 million will be cut from home care packages. In total 450,000 hours of vital care and support for many of our community's most vulnerable people will be taken away. In my county of Donegal we have seen brutal and savage cuts to home help packages for our sick and elderly in recent years. We have seen home help hour supports taken from vulnerable people in the county. These cuts were implemented not only by the Fine Gael and Labour Party Government; they were in the main implemented by the Fianna Fáil and Green Party Government. Many people I know listening at home in Donegal will be surprised at the crocodile tears shed by the Fianna Fáil Deputies during the debate, when they remember that in 2010 in one year in one county the Fianna Fáil Government cut 99,595 hours of home help support from Donegal. It is a bit rich for Deputy Micheál Martin to come here crying about something we all know he would do if he had the chance to sit on the other side of the House.

From speaking to those on the front line providing support I know that, as Deputy McDonald said, many of them do not go home for 15 minutes or half an hour. They stay on to help the individual through the day ensuring their needs are met.

This is because they are people who are passionate about giving the support and care needed by people in their communities. They are people who live up to the rhetoric, not the type of spiel we have heard from the Minister about his aim and ambitions to do this, that and the other. These people are doing it, many times without pay from the Department because the Government has cut their hours.

The plan to cut home help hours by 450,000 hours is cruel and heartless. This will mean a further loss of 20,000 home help hours between now and the end of the year for people in my county. That is almost 2,000 hours per week. That is on top of the 25,000 hours that have been taken away from that county so far this year. So it is simply not feasible to expect a basic level of service will be provided at this level.

I am very conscious that we are talking about figures - 450,000 here, a 4% cut there and savings of €8 million. However, behind every single one of those figures is an individual with a particular need for care. Many of these individuals have been in receipt of home help support for many years. As the HSE on the Government's instruction has decided to cut more hours, they have been assessed time and again and it has been clear that there is a need for them to have the hours they have. I have sat with them by the fireside and looked them in the face and they have told me they cannot cope with the reduction in hours. Yet the Minister is coming again to strip away the last few hours they have left.

What the Minister is doing is cruel and heartless. The Minister and Government Deputies say they have no option but I will give the Minister an option. He says he wants to save €8 million by cutting 450,000 hours of home help supports for very vulnerable people. I would tell him to dig into his pockets. There are 226 Members in this House and the Seanad. We could reduce Ministers' pay to €100,000, Deputies' pay to €75,000 and Senators' pay to €60,000. That leaves every single one of us with a very generous income and would save €4.3 million - over 250,000 home help hours. Politics is all about choices. I would rather stand up here and ask for my pay and that of Senators to be cut instead of taking away that basic need of vulnerable people to stay in their homes so they can live their lives to the fullest. That is the choice the Labour Party and Fine Gael Deputies will be asked to make tonight. I believe they will take the wrong position because it is nothing more than cowardly behaviour to attack the most vulnerable people in our society. I listened to Deputy O'Brien last night recount his own experiences and he is not alone. There are thousands more who have different stories and the Government decides to target them. There are other people whose pockets we can dig into. They are sitting beside the Minister and we can alleviate the burden of the cuts he is planning to introduce.

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