Bannon criticises Minister as cuts take effect

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon has criticised the Junior Minister with responsibility for disability services for refusing to discuss the issue of funding for St Christopher’s Services in Longford.

Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon has criticised the Junior Minister with responsibility for disability services for refusing to discuss the issue of funding for St Christopher’s Services in Longford.

The criticism comes as over 50 parents and supporters travelled to the HSE Disability Offices in Tullamore on Monday to protest at the €450,000 cut imposed in Budget 2012.

Despite raising the issue 27 times as a topical interest motion, Deputy Bannon said Minister of State with the responsibility for disability services, Kathleen Lynch, has failed to discuss the issue. “I am extremely puzzled as to why the Minister is refusing to debate this matter with me in the Dáil. As she has repeatedly over a two and a half month period refused to engage with me on this matter, I can only conclude that she not prepared to be forthright on the matter. The lack of transparency on this important issue is very worrying.”

Meanwhile parents and supporters of clients of St Christopher’s Services in Longford have called on the government not to impose any future cuts on the Dublin Road facility as this year’s 3.7 percent cut takes its toll. A number of respite services have been seriously curtailed as a result.

Parents and supporters in Tullamore said cuts to respite services were having a detrimental effect on everyone associated with St Christopher’s.

“The government are trying to save money but we’re the ones who end up stuck. Respite has been closed down for two days and as a result of that, there’s more demand for the remaining days so people aren’t getting in as often, and that puts a huge strain on parents,” Maureen Donohoe told the Leader.

“We have to make sure that the HSE know that we’re not going to go away. It’s tragic that the people who cannot fight for themselves, the most vulnerable in our society, are being affected the most. Parents are tired too, but we have to keep fighting this,” she added.

One of the most serious concerns raised with regard the curtailing of respite is the pressure it heaps on older parents.

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One such family, Paula and Patrick Farrell, both in their seventies, are concerned future cuts would impact on the level of care afforded to their son, Paul, especially as they grow older and may need care themselves.

Paula said: “The cuts keep coming, but the price of everything else keeps on going up. We are afraid down the road that if these cuts keep coming there’ll be no more spaces available for him. As it stands we have to look after him if he’s unwell, which is difficult especially as parents get older.”

“We are those parents already,” Patrick interjected.

There is of yet no indication of funding levels for next year, with Minister for Health James Reilly failing to give any assurances on the levels of funding available for disability services during his visit to St Joseph’s last week.

Director of St Christopher’s, Pat O’Toole said there had been “nothing definite from any quarter in relation to funding for next year. At the time of the last budget, it had been alluded that there would be a 3.7 percent cut this year, with something similar next year – that’s what concerns us, but no one knows for sure.”