A ‘brutal and futile’ decision by the HSE to cut a training allowance for young people with disabilities, starting a course in Dundalk this week shows that ‘decency and humanity has been stripped from the system’, according to TD Imelda Munster.
The Sinn Féin representative slammed the HSE’s announcement cutting the Rehabilitative Training Allowance for attendees of the National Learning Network’s courses across the State, including at facilities at the Ramparts, Carroll Village and Wilton House.
Participants on the course, which teaches living and social skills to school leavers with disabilities, were due to be given an additional €31.80 per week.
But a decision by the HSE to cut the funding to new participants, including around six in Dundalk, was made earlier this month in order, the health service says to ‘reinvest in day services for people with disabilities.
It means that those already on the course, like Naoise Johnston, will continue to get the allowance, but those due to start, like Eileen Meenan’s son, Kevin, will not.
Naoise said she was ‘disappointed and angry’ that her friends will have to do without the money she receives, even though they are on the same course. She said: ‘I know those who are going to start this week and they will not be getting the same money as me. That’s extremely unfair and I don’t understand why the decision was made.
‘You need to have the extra money for the course, because we use it for social outings, lunches etc. Last week, we went to the planetarium in Armagh and I used the money for that trip and the others we have done throughout the year’.
Eileen said her older son, James, had received the training allowance for the course, but her 18-year-old son Kevin, who is due to start this week, will not. She said she is appalled that the government had ‘targeted the most vulnerable, again’ and pointed out that this is the second decision in as many months that the HSE has ‘tried to cut the help it gives to those with disabilities in the Northeast’, citing the now deferred decision to close Sruthán House.
Eileen said: ‘People with disabilities get little enough help as it is, without cutting this small, but vital allowance. When Kevin knew he was getting on the course, he said he would use some of the money to pay for a new phone. He was looking forward to using the money for the social events and trips that are part of teaching people how to look after their cash, how to budget, how to socialise and make plans’.
Ms Munster said the HSE’s decision is ‘brutal and futile’, with the HSE’s own figures putting the savings at less than €13,000 a week.
She said: ‘This is yet another attack on people with disabilities and is a tiny, tiny fraction of the €16 billion of the annual health budget. Yet again, we see penny pinching from the HSE when it comes to making cuts and they have the vulnerable in their crosshairs as usual.
‘Instead of tackling the cost overruns and waste in other areas of the health service, such as the National Children’s Hospital, they decide to take this small, but much-needed tranche of cash away from those who need it. There was no warning, no consultation with those affected.
‘It appears to me that all decency and humanity has been stripped from the system’.