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Cuts to social welfare and disability services must be resisted – Ó Caoláin

30 March, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking in advance of his participation this evening (Friday, 27 March) in the Annual General Meeting of Inclusion Ireland in Monaghan, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health & Children spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said that cuts to social welfare and to disability services in the forthcoming Budget must be resisted.

Deputy Ó Caoláin also described as "a recipe for disaster" the prospect of the HSE not renewing the contracts of up to 14,000 ‘temporary’ staff as highlighted by the trade union Impact.

He said:

"Our health services rely to a great degree on so-called temporary staff who are in full-time jobs that are vital to the delivery of health and personal social services. If the HSE refuses to renew these contracts we will be faced with a massive staffing crisis in an already overstretched system. The Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney must reverse any such decision."

Predicting the imposition of social welfare cuts by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government in the Budget, Deputy Ó Caoláin said there is "a better way forward."

"I believe we are going to see significant cuts in Social Welfare in the forthcoming Budget. Twice in the past month I have asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil if there would be a new Social Welfare Bill arising out of the Budget. He indicated there would be and replied in the context of so-called savings.

"In other words major cuts are on the way. This will hit people with intellectual disability and their families hard.

"The first reflex of the Government when the economy took a turn for the worst was to cut public services. It began in the autumn of 2007 when health cuts, including the recruitment embargo in the health services, were imposed.

"At the same time, as we learned this week, the Minister for Health & Children was sanctioning massive rises in the salaries on offer to recruit senior executives to the HSE. Those salaries – some of over €200,000 per annum - are still in place. Contrast that with family home carers who get little or no support and save the State untold millions every year.

"The picture is indeed bleak but we in Sinn Féin believe there are alternatives and it is possible to chart a better way forward.

"We have this week put forward comprehensive proposals for job creation and job retention. We want to see fair and progressive taxation, the closing of loopholes for wealthy tax dodgers, real efficiency in public spending and the protection of public services including health, education and support for people with disabilities."

Note: Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD is participating with other party political representatives in a Questions & Answers Panel Discussion at the Inclusion Ireland AGM, 6.30pm, Friday 27 March, Hillgrove Hotel, Monaghan town.

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