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Mum of deaf, mute, blind and autistic woman offered Carer's Allowance of just €4.50 per week

Care for woman would cost the State up to €1,500 per week if she was in residential care

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The matter was raised by Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley of Cork East during Topical Questions/Issues on Wednesday evening.

Pat Buckley TD, Sinn Féin, Cork East

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An east Cork mother of a severely disabled adult daughter was offered a Carer’s Allowance weekly payment of €4.50 following an assessment by the State, her local Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley told the Dáil this week.

The woman, whom he identified as Margaret, had a partner living in her house but he only contributed towards the daily bills rather than the care costs for Margaret’s 36-year-old daughter, a woman who is deaf and mute as well as being registered blind and autistic.

According to Deputy Buckley, Margaret’s daughter is the only person in Ireland to be registered as a sufferer of Fraser Syndrom, an extremely rare illness. Margaret wrote to Deputy Buckley recently to explain her situation.

"She explains how she does the hardest job in the world rearing her disabled daughter, which is extremely demanding and a thankless job. Her day starts at 5.30 a.m., showering dressing, brushing her daughter's hair and tying her shoes.

"Margaret's daughter is 36 years and she has spent those 36 years as her sole carer. Margaret fractured her pelvis in 2016 and had to give up work.

“She ended up riding a bike for a year so that she could take her daughter on her very important routine daily walks. In February, Margaret had an operation but had to discharge herself the same day to care for her daughter.

"If her daughter was in residential care, it would cost the State around €1,000 to €1,500 a week to care for her.”

Deputy Buckley told his Dáil colleagues that the State offered just €4.50 per week following a means test of Margaret.

“Margaret wrote that she actually thought she was a good mother but the State had made her feel worthless.

"She says it is an insult to her and to others who give up their lives and freedom to look after their disabled children.”

The TD explained that Margaret and her partner or ex partner ‘were living two separate lives’ but were being means as if they were together.

"That means that poor mother has literally nothing. Her sole job is to care for her daughter,” he said. “To get that news from the Department would break your soul.”

“I know the woman personally. I see her anytime, and it does not matter what time of year it is, she has to take her daughter out for a walk. It is one of the simplest things.

"She feels so worthless. She said she did not want to come to me and she did not want to complain but it was such a measly amount.

"She tried to explain to the Department that the husband, or ex-husband, despite being at the same address, only supports the daily household bills.

“That lady does not have the opportunity to earn money.

"She is entitled to a Carer's Allowance, but because it is means tested including the husband's income, the State has decided to give her €4.50.”

The TD said that the letter Margaret received informing her of the amount of the Carer’s Allowance she would received contained no information as getting an inspector to come to her home to do a proper assessment.

Pat Buckley TD, Sinn Féin, Cork East

"There has to be a mechanism where a person can, first of all, talk to a human being in any Department, where he or she has an opportunity to come in front of a board or somebody to explain his or her real-life story, to prove it, and to ask that it be looked on with empathy in order that the assessor can see he or she did not realise the situation.

“That happens. My biggest problem is that I raised it with the Minister directly and I have not had any response – I am very disappointed with that – and I have nowhere for this woman to turn to fight her case for herself and her child.

"That is why I raise it tonight. I do not expect a magic answer from the Minister of State tonight, but at least once it is on the record we can come back and revisit it.”

Malcolm Noonan, the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, responded to the story told by Deputy Buckley and described Margaret’s situation as “very challenging”. He said however that, on June 2, a total of €262 million was paid to 121,000 Carer’s Allowance recipients.

"I know these statistics are of no use to the mother the Deputy mentioned,” said Minister Noonan, who pledged to bring the matter to the attention of the responsible minister.

Deputy Buckley responded to Minister Noonan and said that there was an avenue of hope in that the Department did provide a social welfare inspector.

”When the information comes back from the Department, it outlines the deadline for appeal but does not state that the person has opportunities if his or her circumstances are different. I welcome that. I got more than I expected because, I suppose, I am a realist.

"This woman wanted to stand up because she suspected that there were other affected parents around the country.

“She told me that at her age, she should not be worrying about it but that a measly bloody €4.50 a week was an absolute insult. She asked how many more people this was happening to and said she wanted to stand up and fight, not only for her child but also for other families to set a precedent.

"At least I can ring that woman tomorrow and say we can possibly set up a meeting with the social welfare inspector.”

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