Sinn Féin councillor, Martin Kenny has called on the Government to change the process by which domiciliary care allowance payments are being reviewed.
In a statement to the Leitrim Observer, Cllr Kenny said, “Minister Joan Burton TD must respond to the growing fears of hundreds of carers across the country and make urgent changes to the process by which Domiciliary Care Allowance payments are reviewed, to ensure that no payment is withdrawn without, at minimum, a meeting with the recipient.
“I have been contacted by families with special needs children, where the threat to this payment is causing great fear and anguish. This reviews backlog is now resulting in some payments being ended before the review is even completed.” Last year 403 reviews were carried out on individual Domiciliary Care Allowance payments. In the six months from September 2011 to March of this year, 213 families lost the Domiciliary Care Allowance payments.
“This allowance is a gateway payment, so its withdrawal quickly precipitates the loss of carers allowance and other associated benefits.
“The review process can result in significant financial loss to families with special needs children,” he said.
The withdrawal of the Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Respite Care Grant is an automatic loss of €5,408 per annum.
In other cases a carers allowance is also lost – this can be the principle social welfare payment of a household.
So it is absolutely vital that the review process be fair.
“Cllr Kenny said, “It appears the over-riding concern of the department is to reduce its spending on this scheme and that fair procedures and the needs of special needs children are falling second.
“At the very least absolutely no payment should be cut-off in advance of the completion of the review.
“The level of both confusion and fear to which these reviews are giving rise to is something which the Minister needs to deal with urgently.”