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‘While Blindness is a terrible disability…’

December 12th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Disability, Equality, Irish Politics, Social Policy

Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, was responding to the committee stage of the Social Welfare Bill (No. 2) in the Dáil today – (after Gogartygate). The bill provides for the cuts in social welfare of 4.1% for all social welfare payments for those under 65 and a cut in childnd I benefit. I heard her roll out the following:

I am pleased Deputy McEntee raised the issue of deaf people. One could conclude from the contributions of Deputies that blindness was the only disability. While blindness is a terrible disability, in fairness to people with other disabilities I am glad Deputy McEntee specifically referred to deaf people.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: That is a cheap shot.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Unfortunately, those who receive disability or invalidity payments will be affected by the cuts. Deputies have asked how much it would have cost if we had not reduced payments to those in receipt of disability payments and so on. The cost of not doing so would have been almost €108 million. It would have been necessary to find this expenditure in other Departments or in my Department’s spending.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: What about tax breaks?

Deputy Mary Hanafin: I was asked whether I had spoken to disability groups. I met representatives of these groups separately and they attended the pre-budget forum.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: The Minister is running for cover.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: It is worth repeating that they placed greater emphasis on services on the ground and in the community. They want and need these services – Deputy Crawford is nodding his head – because they are very important to people with disability.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: They are very angry.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: Cutbacks have not been made in respite care beds, day care places, primary care teams or any other services available to people with a disability.

Deputy James Bannon: Has the Minister visited hospitals in Longford and Westmeath?

Deputy Mary Hanafin: An additional €10 million has been provided to deliver more home care packages. The choice facing us was whether to reduce payments, bad as such a step is, or place the burden on the Department of Health and Children. I believe that if one reduced services by more – there are many with disabilities who would agree—–

Deputy Róisín Shortall: That was the Government’s choice.

Deputy Mary Hanafin: —–it would have impacted upon such people more seriously.

Ah Day Centres – Person Centred rather than Day Centred seems such a long long way away. And Nothing about us without us even further.

The Service providers do all the talking to keep their services and their clients in those services and the NDA do the policy whispering and the Ministers the weak excuse making.

I doubt anyone representing people with disabilities argued for an income cut over a service cut. The cost of disability is not factored into payments as it is so it would be farcical for groups to favour a cut in payments.

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