Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Social Welfare Benefits
Catherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this topic. Most of us look at the cases that come before us in our constituency offices and see trends. There is no doubt that every week we are seeing increasing numbers of people coming in with concerns about carer's allowances. An applicant can expect to wait for eight months, which seems to be the average time before the application is reviewed or a decision is made. If one is refused, as a very large number of people are, with one third of the refused applications being overturned on appeal, it will be 14 months to 18 months from beginning to end when the appeal is included.
One cannot talk about home care packages and people being inappropriately referred to nursing homes if one does not look at the nuts and bolts of what is happening in this area. I had two cases this week which illustrate this point very well. A man came to me who is caring for both his father and his mother. One consultant said of the father: "He is wheelchair-bound, I am booking him for extensive revision surgery. He may well remain permanently in a wheelchair." The second consultant said the father was completely unable to take care of himself for the foreseeable future and were it not for his son looking after him for the previous five months, he would have required institutional care. That man was refused and the case is on appeal. How can anybody refuse such a case where consultants are being second-guessed and that kind of information is on the file? It is mind-boggling.
The second person I met had a sister who is caring for both her mother and her brother, who is in a wheelchair, has an invalidity pension and is visually impaired. Her sister was formerly paid a carer's allowance. Between them they wanted to swap the allowance from one sister to the other, who had stopped working in order to do this. She was refused on the basis that her mother was not incapacitated enough. There was no mention of her brother even though both persons were included on the same application form. I submitted a parliamentary question asking how one can appeal on behalf of one person when there are two people on the same application form.
There is something chaotic going on in the Department, particularly in regard to the carer's allowance. I echo the point made by Deputy Donohoe. It is most reflective of the kind of chaos that happened in regard to medical cards. That situation has improved substantially but this one needs urgent attention because it is chaotic at present.