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Government must reverse cut to Respite Care Grant – Ó Snodaigh

6 December, 2012 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has condemned the cut the Respite Care Grant announced in the budget yesterday.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh urged the government to reverse the cut.

He said;

“The annual respite care grant for children and others with severe disabilities is cut by €325. This cut comes at a time when respite services are being steadily cut-back across the country due to the government imposed cuts to health service funding. This money is invaluable for the financial and indeed mental well-being of family carers.

“The Tánaiste referred to the recipients of this grant this morning as the caring profession. That’s a joke – this state has never fully recognised either the cost of disability let alone the value of caring. Using a phrase that incites the rage of many carers I’ve met the Minister regularly refers to family carers as “unsung heroes”. They don’t want the Minister’s patronising praise. They want you to cut them a break.

“I want to urge the government today to drop this cut.”

ENDS


Full text of Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s speech follows:


Your cuts are cowardly and indefensible. You are targeting the vulnerable. So much for your pre-election promises, so much for your Programme for Government.

By design you have set out to target children and their working age parents on whom they depend. By design you have set out to target the disabled again this year.

Only one month ago you were out campaigning on children’s rights, promising the earth, moon and stars but we see today the colour of this government’s commitment to children. The numbers of children at risk of poverty and the numbers experiencing acute deprivation will rise as a consequence of this Budget. Basics such as food, clothing and shelter will become unaffordable for hundreds and thousands of families.

Without hesitation, I want to condemn the cuts to Child Benefit, the Back to School Allowance, Respite Care Grant and maternity benefit in particular.

Yesterday the Labour Party and Fine Gael government dipped their hand into the pockets of families and ripped out, in the case of a family with four €58 a month. The parents of twins and triplets will struggle in particular having been targeting already last year. As if that wasn’t low enough you have now decided to tax the unborn. The decision to start taxing maternity benefit could see some mothers losing €1,300 plus at a very expensive time in their lives. And also if it wasn’t already bad enough for mothers and their young children you are once again targeting them by cutting the Back to School Allowance by €50. This is an annual payment to assist the country’s poorest children with the costs of returning to school each September. The government already cut the payment by approximately €50 last year so that’s a €100 cut over 2 Budgets which the Labour Party state represent their ‘Fairness Agenda’.

You - This Labour party and Fine Gael government and their party colleagues are making these cuts to children in the full knowledge that the incomes of households with children are already falling 5 times further and faster than those of households without children; Households with children are three times more likely to be in debt arising from ordinary living expenses; the vast majority of both low and middle income families depend on child benefit to pay for groceries and utility bills, child care and after school care in this country are extremely expensive and basic healthcare for children is extremely expensive.
Cutting social welfare was not necessary, as my own party's fully-costed alternative budget demonstrated. It would be fairer, simpler and economically sounder to introduce a third rate of income tax on all high earners i.e. 48% on individual earnings exceeding €100,000 rather than targeting children directly with cuts. The Labour party chose not to do so.

But fear not struggling families – Minister Burton and her colleagues have included some measures to “compensate” for these cuts. Minister Howlin claims there’s “a suite of 14 measures” tackling wealth but the suite of measures announced by him yesterday viciously targeting the low-paid and vulnerable are greater and deeper in their effect. These cuts totalling 193 million and effecting some 600,000 families and over 1 million children are to be compensated for with a 14 million spend by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs providing a grand total of 6,000 afterschool childcare places and a measly 2 million increase for school meals.
And for the vast vast majority of families who will benefit not one iota from these compensatory measures Minister Burton has a further solution and it’s taken right out of Mary Harney’s PD book – ‘shop around’. Shop around she advised struggling families last night as she slashed their incomes.

I turn now to the meanest cut of them all. The annual respite care grant for children and others with severe disabilities is cut by €325. This cut comes at a time when respite services are being steadily cut-back across the country due to the government imposed cuts to health service funding. This money is invaluable for the financial and indeed mental well-being of family carers. The Tánaiste referred to the recipients of this grant this morning as the caring profession! That’s a joke – this state has never fully recognised either the cost of disability let alone the value of caring. Using a phrase that insights the rage of many carers I’ve met the Minister regularly refers to family carers as “unsung heroes”. They don’t want the Minister’s patronising praise. They want you to cut them a break. I want to urge the government today – to drop this cut!


Jobseekers Benefit cuts
When people at their lowest, having just lost a job, what’s your response? You, representing the Labour Party, supposedly representing the working class – at least that lie is in tatters – what’s your response? You walk all over them, you kick them when they’re down, you are cutting jobseekers benefit.
The proposal to shorten Jobseekers Benefit entitlements by 3 months amounts to a cut of 25% and 33% respectively. You are taking their insurance repayments off them. Jobseekers Benefit is a payment due from their PRSI contributions. Claimants have been paying their premiums while in work and they are entitled to expect it to pay out when they need it. Any unilateral decision by government to slash the benefits of this insurance-based scheme would be nothing short of outrageous.
Since 2007 300,000 jobs have been lost. The total Employed fell by 5,800 in the last 3 months alone. This is net jobs lost in the economy. And in this Budget you propose to cut Jobseekers Benefit and create 10,000 yellow pack activation opportunities. Can you really say with a straight face that your response matches the scale of the crisis? You are punishing people for being unable to find a job that you are refusing to create.
With this measure you are sending a clear message to the unemployed and the underemployed. You are saying to them “here’s your notice – you’ve nine months to get your affairs in order and pack your bags”.
Troika assertions that the generosity of jobseeker benefit rates is what’s preventing people from taking up work is a nonsensical myth fed to them by a cynical austerity opting government.
Create jobs Minister and you could generate much more savings in the social welfare budget than your suite of dastardly anti-family cuts.
You - The current government already made a sneaky and significant cut to jobseekers benefit over the summer. By changing the formulation by which the Jobseekers Benefit scheme calculates days not worked you managed to make a devastating cut to recipients while at the same time pretending to have lived up to their promise to protect rates. Under that cut a family with two children where one parent works 3 days each week saw their job seekers benefit cut by €148 per month.
Fianna Fáil cut jobseeker benefit rates twice – in Budget 2010 and Budget 2011.
Minister you have done nothing in this Budget to live up to your promise not to cut core social welfare rates – your changes to Jonseekers Benefit prove this if proof were needed. Just as workers, trade unionists, ourselves and even the Labour Party agree that most allowances in the public sector are part of core pay so too secondary benefits are core social welfare.
Have you no shame trying to present this manifestly unfair budget as fair.

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