School Transport Chaos affecting Louth families – Ó Murchú

Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that it is ‘ridiculous and unnecessary’ that substantial numbers of school pupils across Louth have been refused concessionary school transport places just weeks before the beginning of the new school term.

Councillor Ó Murchú stated:

“I am working with a number of families who have been refused school transport for the upcoming term.

“In many cases these pupils have received concessionary bus passes for years and families have built their daily routines around this provision.

“Thankfully some of these people have since received bus passes within the last number of days, but not all families are catered for.

“This fiasco occurs every summer and leads to unnecessary stress and annoyance for many families.

“Joe McHugh, the Minister for Education, who has ultimate responsibility for this scheme, indicated in media reports in recent days that the issue could be resolved with an additional investment of €4 million.

“He has said that efforts to agree this investment are being blocked by the Department of Public Expenditure.

“I have written to the Minister for Finance to ask him to re-examine this scheme and the manner in which it is operated by Bus Éireann. Sinn Féin has also called for changes to be made to the scheme.

“We simply cannot allow a system to prevail which causes this much uncertainty and annoyance to local families.”

Munster seeks meeting with minister over Sruthán House closure threat

Imelda Munster TD & Minister Finian McGrath

A meeting between Sruthán House service users and their families and Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath has been urgently requested by Louth TD Imelda Munster as efforts to secure the future of the unit continue.

The Sinn Féin representative has recently contacted the minister asking that he meet with those who use the Dundalk-based respite service which was threatened with closure earlier this summer.

The original decision to close the unit, which has been open for 23 years and has been commended for its high standards of care by HIQA, has been deferred, following outcry in the Dáil from Louth TDs.

Earlier this month, Deputy Munster wrote to Minister McGrath asking that he meet with service users and their families to hear for himself how vital this respite service is for people in the North East.

The Louth TD first raised the closure of Sruthán House with Minister McGrath a day after it was publicly revealed that the HSE had written to dozens of service users telling them the unit would ‘cease residential provision’ by the end of the year.

The HSE admitted that they had not engaged with service users ahead of the closure decision and deferred it in order to start a consultation process.

Deputy Munster said: ‘When people were originally advised that this service was closing, they were told that they could go elsewhere for services, such as Sligo or Roscommon, or to a nursing home.

“This was an absolutely shocking way to treat people who use a service that has been in place for more than 20 years and has been praised, universally, for the standard of care it provides.

“I think it is important that Minister McGrath hears for himself, from a delegation of service users and their families, just how vital this service is for people in the North East and the devastating impact any decision to close it would have. I have requested that he meet us when the Dáil resumes in September after summer recess.

“While I welcomed the HSE decision to defer the closure decision, that in itself provides no guarantee that Sruthán House will remain open and we must continue to highlight the fact this service remains under threat.

“Neither Minister McGrath nor the government can stand over any decision to close or reduce the provision at Sruthán House and he will hear for himself at the meeting just how important it is to those who use it.”

Children’s Mental Health Services in Louth Woefully Inadequate – Adams

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has said that waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are unacceptably long.

Deputy Adams was responding to figures revealed to his colleague and Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on mental health, Pat Buckley TD (attached).

Gerry Adams said;

“The response from the HSE indicates that across CHO 8, which covers county Louth, there are currently 358 children waiting for a CAMHS appointment.

“Behind this startling figure are children and families in distress.

“These children and young people have reached out, they are seeking help to cope with traumas and issues in their lives but the State is not providing the supports they are entitled to.

“Staff are doing their very best to deliver for their patients but the aspiration of ‘A Vision for Change’ is simply not being met.

“The responsibility for this lies squarely with the Minister for Health.

“Figures provided to me by the HSE indicate that A Vision for Change recommended 6 Clinical Psychologists for Co Louth – only 2 are in place.

“6 Psychiatric nurses were recommended – only 5 are in place.  3 Speech and Language Therapists were indicated – only one part time members of staff is in place.

“This government is paying lip service to Child and Adolescent Mental Health.  We need immediate investment and an end to caps on recruitment and overtime.”

 

Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú added,

“Myself and Gerry Adams met with senior CAMHS staff last month to raise concerns regarding provision for North Louth in particular.

“The fact that there is currently no CAMHS facility in Dundalk is one of my main concerns.

“I know that staff are making huge efforts to deliver this facility in Dundalk and I intend to keep campaigning until this service is delivered and the children of North Louth have proper access to the mental health services they need.”

Adams meets Minister on Insurance threat to Louth jobs

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, Shane McBride, Mandy Fee and Gerry Adams TD outside the Dept of Finance at Government Buildings

 

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams TD and Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú yesterday met with the Minister of State Michael D’Arcy TD to discuss the current crisis facing many leisure based companies whose insurance cover has been withdrawn.

Representatives of local Louth company Pelican Promotions, Mandy Fee and Shane Mc Bride, also attended the meeting.

The Sinn Féin representatives put to the Minister their view that:

  • The government should tell insurers that if they don’t act, the State will.
  • The State must be ready to provide guarantees or other assistance to certain sectors help weather this storm.
  • In the longer run, the government must look to other solutions to this type of market failure through a State company or a genuine EU wide insurance market.
  • The government should support Pearse Doherty’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill – which is designed to bring the insurance industry to heel and reform the law in respect of insurance contracts.

Speaking after the meeting Gerry Adams said that the Sinn Féin representatives raised two specific issues with the Minister.

“Firstly, we asked the Minister what plans the government has to protect jobs threatened by the decision of British insurers to withdraw from the Irish market. Some estimates put the number of jobs at risk across the state as high as 4,500.

Secondly, and following An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s statement this week that he has given the insurance companies six months to bring down their premium prices, I asked the Minister what sanctions the government intends taking if insurance companies do not lower their premiums”.

The Louth TD said: “The recent decision by AXA XL, the underwriter of Leisure Insure, not to offer cover to Irish company’s means that Pelican Promotions have been unable to renew their public liability insurance which expires on 13th August, effectively forcing the business to close.

Leisure Insure was one of the last insurers covering event companies, bouncy castle operators, leisure centres, yoga classes, soccer teachers, drama classes, some play centres and a large number of leisure companies.

Operators in the leisure sector largely rely on British insurers as Irish-based insurers cite large losses on what is called liability insurance. British companies are now using the same excuse.

I urged the Minister to make it clear to Insurance companies that if they don’t act, the State will.

The State must also be ready to provide guarantees or other assistance to certain sectors to help weather this storm.

In the longer run, we must look to other solutions to this type of market failure through a State company or a genuine EU wide insurance market”.

Cllr Ó Murchú said:

 

“€227 million profits were made by the insurance industry last year. This is a 1,300% increase in their profits. Government policy must now reflect this reality and any reforms that benefit the industry must be matched by clear verifiable commitments from them to reduce premiums.

 

In May An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar signed the money message for Pearse Doherty’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill – which is designed to bring the insurance industry to heel and reform the law in respect of insurance contracts. On July 11 the Bill passed Committee Stage in the Finance Committee.

 

The Bill is pro-consumer and pro-transparency and is based on a Law Reform Commission Report. The government should support Teachta Doherty’s Bill and use it as a vehicle to promote greater transparency”.

 

Government must do more to help families with Back to School costs – Gerry Adams TD

Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the government to do more to help parents who are facing mounting stress due to the financial burden of Back to School costs.

Teachta Adams said:

“A report published last week by the Charity Barnardos found that parents are “stressed out, overburdened and fed up” with the high cost of sending children to school. The report paints a stark picture of parents not paying bills or cutting back on other areas in order to meet these costs.

This is supported by a recent survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions which found that 78% of parents are struggling financially with Back to School costs, and that 36% were falling in to debt due to it, including 24% who go to moneylenders, despite these charging enormous interests rates that put families under even more financial pressure.

Parents are stressed trying to provide uniforms, shoes, books, ‘voluntary contributions’, and much more. They have to pay on average €949 to get their children ready for primary school and €1,399 to send them to secondary school. As a result, many children miss out on extracurricular activities or school trips which is a deeply unfair position to put parents in. The vast majority of parents get no assistance with Back to School Costs.

Minister McHugh and the government have an opportunity in the upcoming budget to help parents with Back to School costs. The Minister could begin by increasing the core funding to education and end the use of so-called ‘voluntary contributions’ and by delivering free school books for every pupil”.

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú said:

“There are real alternatives to the current policy being pursued by the government. Last week Sinn Féin published its new policy document “Let’s End Back to School Stress”.

The Sinn Fein policy proposals also call for legislative measures to make uniforms more affordable through the use of Generic Uniforms. It also proposes:

  • A scheme which makes school books free for all children, rolled out over a number of Budgets.
  • An end to school reliance on so-called voluntary contributions by increasing core capitation funding to schools.
  • reform and increase funding for the school transport scheme so that it is more flexible and affordable for parents.

There is a cost of living crisis and the government cannot sit on the sidelines and act as spectators. We have shown them the alternatives, now they need to take them and implement them.”

Notes:

Back to School Allowance Scheme 2019

The Back to School Allowance Scheme doesn’t end until 30 September. Most families in receipt of the Allowance will receive it automatically but there may be some who do not, for example if children are just starting school.

Parents who do not receive notification of an automated payment can make application online at www.welfare.ie To apply on line you need a Public Services Card and a verified MyGovID account. 

If you need a Public Services Card you can make an appointment at www.mywelfare.ie.

Application forms are also available in all Social Welfare Departmental offices, via SMS (text Form BTSCFA followed by your name and address to 51909), from the websitewww.welfare.ie or you can email the Department at BSCFA@welfare.ie.

Information is regularly updated on the Departments website.http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Back-to-School-Clothing-and-Footwear-Allowance.aspx

If a parent has a query regarding this payment they can also LoCall 1890 66 22 44 from 24 June 2019 or by email to bscfa@welfare.ie.