Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Taking the hit and being clobbered

October 14th, 2013 · Disability, Equality, Social Policy

Claire is a woman I met socially a few months ago.  She has had a significant physical disability since birth and following leaving school undertook a period of study in a further education college.  She lives in local authority housing having moved there some years ago despite the concerns of her family.  She was desperate for her own space and when in college over 10 years ago she thought maybe she could get some part time work in the public sector under the 3% recruitment quota for people with disabilities.  However there is an embargo on public sector recruitment for the past 6 years including the recruitment of people with disabilities.

Claire and I began talking about the impact of austerity and budgets on the lives of people with disabilities and I soon realised she had begun to keep a list in her head of all the ways she had been affected.  I asked her to write a post for the blog or another publication if she wanted but she said she would prefer if I wrote out the list as she talked and added explanations to it.

Claire would not be able to work full time due to her disability and is limited in the tasks she can undertake due to literacy and communication difficulties.  She did try supported employment and job coaching but a job in the private sector could not be found despite many attempts – Claire said she just couldn’t keep up or could not find a job that she was able for and that an employer would be willing to make allowances for her.  Claire did take part in a CE scheme but the costs of getting to and from work which were covered by keeping her Disability Allowance payment would now prevent her doing such work again as that payment has been removed for those on CE schemes.

Claire also mentioned the loss of a medical card if she ever did get a job – it’s a worry as a medical card covers more than medicines for people with disabilities and doctors fees.  Claire needs help from Public Health Nurses for dressings sometimes, she also needs Occupational Therapy services and new aids and appliances including wheelchairs – both of these services are only available to medical card holders.

She has a few Personal Assistance hours each week and some daily home help hours.  However there are days where she does not get a freshly cooked meal because there is not enough time and she might trade the time taken in cooking if instead she needs help getting to a clinic appointment or needs bills paid. So she reheats leftovers or goes out for a meal if she can afford transport.  She says that eating out alone is a change of scenery never mind a break from the same food cooked again and again. She has three showers a week but not if there is a bank holiday in the week.  Most nights she says she goes to bed earlier than she would want to because that is when her assistance is available to her and it is warmer there.

Claire can’t use public transport without assistance.  So if she does not have someone to help her get on and off a bus safely she uses a taxi.  She has a mobility allowance which was removed by the government earlier this year but then reintroduced pending the introduction of a new scheme.  She wonders if she will still qualify for the new scheme.

Claire listed the cuts she has experienced under this government.

  • A 25% cut in home help hours.  Refusal to transfer home help hours into Personal Assistance hours which would have meant the PA’s could have helped her go out into her community. (Home helps can only assist with personal care within the home, sometimes the person who helps Claire cannot cook or does not know how to cook – Claire buys food which is more expensive to cover those times to ensure that she will eat. She also mentioned this being more of an issue when her home help hours were cut and getting up out of bed, washed and laundry done competed with time spent preparing food.) Claire’s home helps are called carers – Claire doesn’t like the word much. She would prefer assistants as she thinks having a carer means she should be grateful for it and just let herself be cared for and have no say in things.
  • A cut to Electricity and Telephone allowances (Claire has to have a landline for her emergency response unit – a pendant operated call system if she needs help – her line rental is no longer free.)  Her electricity Bill is up due to the cuts in allowances and also the big increases levied by the power company in recent years.
  • A cut to the number of fuel allowance payments each year from 32 to 26 weeks.  Claire noted that she feels the cold more due to her health and also the fact that she is at home more that people who are able to work she has additional costs.
  • A €1.50 per month charge for her 5 prescription items received on the medical card.  Cost to Claire – €7.50 per month.
  • The removal of 3 items from the medical card scheme which means she has to pay for them over the counter – cost to Claire €19 per month.
  • Claire’s disability allowance has been cut in 2008/9.  Meanwhile everything has increased including VAT on many items she purchases.  Claire also mentioned the extra costs she faces in laundry, cleaning and other purchases which make life more accessible for her. She also has to provide items to homehelps and PA’s to protect them in their work. These are not covered by their employers (latex gloves/aprons etc.) and the HSE have cut the amount that they provide.  Claire says she can’t stand it when this government says that the primary payments have not been affected – everything else costs so much now.
  • Claire’s rent has increased – waste and property tax charges have been levied on her.  There is no waiver scheme for waste charges.
  • Claire needed adaptations done to her bathroom but the local authority refused to fund them last year despite reports indicating that they needed to be done.  She has been told she might get the work done this year.  Also her front door opener stopped working and a replacement order took months to be approved – this restricted Claire’s freedom of movement and happened at the same time her home help hours were cut.
  • Claire’s wheelchair has broken a number of times in the last 18 months. She has had her chair for nearly 5 years and hopes an application will be made for a new chair.  However there have been huge cuts to the aids and appliances budgets in the HSE.  The manual chair (which Claire got without asking for it – as a health and safety measure) is no use to Claire as she cannot propel herself in it.
  • Claire also mentioned the constant reapplying and reviewing for everything.  Her Disability Allowance reviewed, her medical card, each time something new is needed or needs fixing.  New reports are needed, new letters from her doctor, forms need filling.  Her disability is life long and permanent but the ‘systems’ don’t seem to understand this.
  • Finally Claire and I have had a few conversations about mental health and the effect of all of this and the increasing isolation on her sense of worth and wellbeing.  She notes that family members have pointed to the cuts as an excuse to say she should not be living alone or independently.  When a big bill comes in she does not feel she can ask her siblings for help to pay it or to buy something she really needs now instead of waiting for it.  Also she says she feels when going out and about she is less a part of society, not just that she goes out less often, but when she does that people don’t talk to her or ignore her more than they did before.

So when Minister Noonan, Burton, Howlin et al say yet again that ‘we all have to take the hit’ in the coming days as they explain away the budget , Claire and many other people with disabilities will again be reflected on being clobbered (Claire’s words) again and again and again and how it appears that the government says that the fiscal violence is deserved.

*Claire asked for her name to be changed and picked this name for herself after we had finished making the list.


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Disabling healthcare

October 14th, 2013 · Disability, Social Policy

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Grainne Daly and Bernard Wright were reported last week and should be remembered for years to come. Unfortunately I fear that they may soon be forgotten.

Both had disabilities and both had families who fought hard to get clarity regarding their treatment and cause of death.

Grainne’s family had been fighting for 4 years before they finally received an apology from the HSE.  Eoin English reported extensively in the Irish Examiner on Saturday on the circumstances surrounding her death and the silence from the HSE afterwards.

Bernard Wright died in 2011 in the care of St. Michaels House, his family had moved him back there from Beaumont Hospital following a refusal to administer morphine. His family thanked St. Michaels House for their care and allowing Bernard to die with dignity.

While the culture of non-disclosure and a refusal to communicate with family members during an illness and following death was the main focus of the reports last week there was another issue which lay below the surface.

There is no national protocol regarding the treatment, communication and support of people with disabilities who are receiving treatment in acute hospital settings.  Several hospitals have individual policies, however the HSE or HIQA have no national standards on the needs and treatment of this specific group when they are seriously ill. Frequently health care providers are more concerned by consent and decision making (Capacity legislation dates back to the 19th century) rather than the basics of caring and listening to patients and those who know them and planning care and consultation. Many who are concerned with this issue believe that often the best treatment is not provided to people with disabilities because they can’t speak up or are seen as less important than other patients.

Service providers (funded by the State) who support people with disabilities in residential settings also vary in the type of communication and practical supports offered to the people they care for when they go to an acute hospital. Making sure that information is passed between providers and hospitals does not always happen. Sometimes staff will remain with people with disabilities throughout their hospital stay because of the deficiencies in acute hospital care in ensuring people are heard and cared for appropriately. I have heard that some hospitals demand that this happen due to lack of resources. But often agencies do not have enough staff to ensure someone is at the hospital with the person who has a disability during their inpatient stay.

Family members may not be able to attend either and may not be able to speak up or be heard in questioning the treatment (or lack of it) being offered.  Many organisations are developing palliative care services and policies due to deficits in mainstream services.

Talking to people with disabilities about their hospital and healthcare experiences over the past 20 years I have been struck about reports of poor care, a lack of information on conditions being given to patients, being patronised by healthcare staff, the lack of knowledge of staff of many disabilities and too many assumptions being made, low levels of support with eating and hydration whilst in hospital. For those who are able to speak up they often find themselves ignored and information given to carers and families without people’s consent.  All report that it is an extremely stressful time and frequently that is due to the issues other than the illness being treated.

We need a national focus and response on the way in which people with disabilities are supported when they are patients in acute hospitals, the care they receive from staff in those hospitals – ensuring people are trained to deliver care and not rely on families or disability organisations to provide care. And we need to talk about supporting people to have the right to both live and die with dignity.

In the UK last year MENCAP published the results of a confidential inquiry into the deaths of people with disabilities.  The inquiry showed that over 1200 people with disabilities die in acute hospitals each year because they are not getting the right care.

People with disabilities, their families and those who support them should feel safe when they are in hospital and know that they receive the best standard of care. We all should feel like that.


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Amazing Michael Lynn

August 30th, 2013 · dodgy solicitors, Michael Lynn

He once was lost – but now is found and arrested facing 33 charges seeking his extradition.

Yes that is former solicitor Michael Lynn singing. Really. He was a specialist subject of mine some years ago. It’s a long story but he has his own subject category on the blog which you can search through.

(Link to track on soundcloud for those who cannot see the player.)

If you want to hear more the Full CD can be played on a flash player here. There’s a lot of coming home tunes.


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Guest Post – Indulging the Exiles

July 23rd, 2013 · Irish Politics, Social Policy

Damian O’Broin is the director of Ask Direct, a fundraising and direct marketing agency.

Let’s get the disclosures out of the way first, shall we?

I earn my living in the charity sector, and have done for 20 years. I spend my days coming up with better ways to connect emotionally with donors in order to persuade them to make more and larger gifts to the organisations that employ my services.

I’m proud of my work, and I’m proud – and awfully privileged – to be able to support ‘charity’.

And right there we have the second thing we need to get out of the way – the definition of charity. Over the years, the term has become tainted, associated with a do-gooder, patronising, disempowering attitude. Hence the appearance of terms like non-profit, NGO and social enterprise as alternatives.

Today, I’m going to stick with charity, because that’s the term most people use. For me, charity is simply support for a cause that you care about or believe in. That cause could be the environment, it could be finding a cure for cancer, or it could be empowering lone parents to be able to fully participate in society. There needn’t be anything derogatory about it.

That’s a lot of introduction before I even get to the main point. But I think they’re points that need to be made.

Which brings me on to the Forum on Philanthropy’s proposals around tax exiles.

The Forum has proposed that tax exiles, if they donate €15 million over a ten year period, could get an extra 62 days in Ireland.

Now, I think promoting philanthropy is a great idea. I would love it if organisations and causes that I care deeply about had more money to invest in their work.

And if we look at our wealthiest citizens, their charitable giving is disappointingly low by international standards.

So, encouraging the wealthiest in our society to give more makes sense.

But this is where we run into problems.

Focusing either exclusively or primarily on giving by the super wealthy throws up a number of serious problems.

First of all, it means that it’s the interests of the rich that get well funded. Or, to put it another way, anything that challenges or threatens wealthy people won’t get as much. So children and health get the big gifts and are supported by the charitable trusts and foundations, whereas climate change and anti-poverty work struggle for support.

The second problem is that it leads to a tendency to give special privileges to the rich. Why should donors who can afford to give lots of money get kickbacks that less well off donors don’t get?

The current tax efficient giving regime is a case in point. If you donate more than €250 a year, the charity that receives your gifts can claim back the tax you paid on it. But if you give less than €250, they can’t. (In contrast, in the UK, there is no threshold and tax can be reclaimed on all gifts, no matter what the size).

But the €250 threshold is small fry compared with the proposal to give tax exiles extra days in Ireland in return for charitable donations.

Tax benefits do matter to donors, especially high-value donors. It’s rarely the primary motivation or driver, but it is a consideration.

And the Forum on Philanthropy’s proposal would work, in the sense that it would generate additional gifts from our tax exiles. Chuck a few quid to a charity and get an extra two months in Ireland? No bother.

But efficacy can’t be the only consideration. We have to consider equity. And we have to consider ethics.

Because this is an inequitable and unethical proposal.

It says that if you’re rich enough to live as a tax exile, you can get special benefits by making donations to charity.

And it says that if you’re rich enough to live as a tax exile, you can substitute charitable donations for tax payments.

(I wonder is this the real motivation here. The privatisation of taxation and social provision. A world where the rich get to choose where their charity goes, while the poor have to cough up their taxes.)

This proposal stinks. We are selling indulgences and offering unrepentant sinners extra days in the promised land.

The charity sector is about ethics, equity, fairness, justice. It’s about making the world we live in a better place. But if we support this proposal we will bring shame on ourselves. We will allow ourselves to be used by incredibly wealthy people living in luxury abroad to avoid paying tax – at a time when our public services are being hollowed out and hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are out of work, living in poverty and being forced to emigrate to find work.

Let’s nail our objections to the door and make it clear that while we want to encourage philanthropy, it can’t be at the expense of fair and equitable taxation.


Editors Note – This is the first in a series of guest and MP pre-budget guest posts. Anyone who would like to pitch a post can of course contact me at tips @


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Waiting for the law

June 6th, 2013 · Disability, Equality, Irish Politics, Social Policy

While waiting for the publication of the report of the Review Group into Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant (5,000 people with disabilities are going to lose up to 20% of their income at the end of this month and few seem to care)  thoughts also are not far away from very important legislation for people with disabilities which has been delayed since 2008.  The Assisted Decision Making Bill has been promised annually and Ireland cannot ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities until it is made law.

Yesterday the Government announced it’s intention to seek a referendum on abolishing the Seanad and the legislation was published for such a referendum (estimated cost €19m) to take place.

This bill was not listed on the ‘A’ list which is the list of forthcoming legislation due to be published this session.

Knowing that there is a lot of other very important legislation which has yet to be published I thought I would check the ‘A’ list and see what has been published so far this session. I am looking for full publication rather than Heads of Bill which may be before committee.  (Publishing legislation doesn’t mean it will be passed this session or even this calendar year – some of the legislation which has been published so far this session is in Second or Committee stage).


Agriculture Food and the Marine
1 Forestry Bill Published 24/4/13
Children and Youth Affairs
2 Child and Family Support Agency Bill Not Published
3 Children First Bill Not Published
Communications Energy and Natural Resources
4 Minerals Development Bill Published 16/5/13
Environment Community and Local Government
5 Electoral (Amendment) Bill Not Published
6 Housing (Amendment) Bill Published 25/4/13
7 Local Government Bill Not Published
8 Betting (Amendment) Bill Not Published
9 Health (Amendment) Bill Not Published
10 Medical Practitioners Act 2007 (Amendment) (Medical Indemnity Insurance) Bill Not Published
11 Protection of Maternal Life Bill Heads Published
Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
12 Consumer and Competition Bill Not Published
13 County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill Not Published
14 Employment Permits Bill Published 5/6/2013
15 Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill Not Published
16 Workplace Relations Bill Not Published
Justice and Equality
17 Assisted Decision-making (Capacity) Bill Not Published
18 Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Bill Not Published
19 Fines (Amendment) Bill Not Published
20 Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill Not Published
Public Expenditure and Reform
21 Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill Not Published
22 Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privilege and Procedures) Bill Published 15/5/13
23 Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill Not Published
24 Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill Published 29/5/13
Social Protection
25 Social Welfare and Pensions Bill Published 22/5/13
Transport Tourism and Sport
26 Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Bill Not Published
27 Road Traffic Bill Not Published


It is not the presence of the Seanad or having too many politicians which is delaying the passage of legislation in Ireland. Indeed one might note that the Seanad has not enough work to do because of the scarcity of legislation. Bills could be brought to the Seanad to commence their legislative journey and speed up the process.

Government ministers and their departments simply are not performing and publishing and leading legislation through the Oireachtas.  It’s not the troika’s fault either.

There are 7 weeks left before the end of the summer session – how many of these bills will see the light of sun?



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