Family carers facing a “national crisis in children’s disability services”

By Eoin Ryan

Family Carers Ireland (FCI) said they welcome the short-term financial support for family carers in Budget 2023, but it lacks the necessary reforms to deal with major challenges for those caring for loved ones at home.

Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) increased from €309.50 to €330 this year to matchand carers who qualify for the Carer’s Support Grant received a once-off payment of €500 on 21 November. Other measures supporting carers are the €12 increase in the weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit Double social welfare payment in October, €100 increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit and changes to the rules around Fuel Allowance.

“Family carers and their loved ones are all too familiar with the crises in our health service including the scandalous waiting lists for disability services.Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy of FCI said.

Cox said the situation has reached a point where there is a “national crisis in children’s disability services,” on top of the current cost of living crisis.

The FCI believes family carers will still be struggling financially despite the short-term financial support due to rising inflation.

“While new funding to improve access to assessments of need is welcome, we believe that the measures announced today are not sufficient to address the national emergency in access to therapies,” she continued.

“Today’s measures are largely a sticking plaster to counter inflationary pressures and there is an absence of a long-term strategy to properly support, recognise and acknowledge our family carers, without whom our health system would completely collapse.” 

This inaccessibility to necessary therapy and treatments force carers to go through private healthcare which may not be possible for those already struggling financially.

Carla Meehan has been forced down the private treatment route for her three year old child with autism after leaving her job to become a family carer.

Despite the increased allowance, two thirds of Meehan’s monthly DCA payment of €330 is spent on therapy instead of providing support at home

€80 is for 45 minutes of Speech and Language Therapy and €140 for one hour of Occupational Therapy, once a month for each.

“I would love the speech and language therapy more often for him but it is just not an option at the minute financially.”

The lack of a second income has been greatly detrimental in this and the DCA is not  “So obviously we are down a wage now with me being on carer’s leave, so it is a little bit more difficult to afford the speech and language and occupational therapy.”

HSE speech and language therapy offered online courses for parents online but she did not think they were “hugely beneficial.”

“As much as it’s great to hear stories with other parents, it’s not therapy, it’s not speech and language therapy for my son.”

Aisling Campbell is another such mother who left her job as an account manager to become a full time carer after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. Six years have passed but “He has never seen anybody in a psychology department in the HSE.”

Many carers have accepted the fact going private is necessary for any sort of treatment as the HSE does not have the resources to support them.

“Most family carers with any kind of diagnosis end up going private for stuff because you just can’t get the resources through public.”

Campbell is forced to go private just for a dyspraxia diagnosis in order to get her child assisted tech for secondary school.

“Being honest, there is not a huge amount of resources within the HSE for children with any diagnosis, it does not matter what it is, they are very stretched”

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