Michael McCabe Speech Feb 9th 2012

 

Address of Michael McCabe, Chairperson of the Center for Independent Living, to a hearing in the European Parliament on Independent Living on 09 February 2012

“Ladies and gentlemen of the assembly -

 I thank ENIL/ for giving me this opportunity to speak to you this afternoon.

€85 billion is the amount the Irish Government committed Ireland to paying in order to bail out the banks.

 €85 billion amounts to almost €19,000 for every man, woman and child in the country of Ireland.

€85 billion would provide 405 million personal assistance hours for people with disabilities in Ireland, this equates to financing the largest personal assistance service provider in Ireland for more than 200 years.

To pay off the banks the Irish State had to call in the IMF and the EU who together put in place a bailout package for Ireland. Currently Ireland is paying back this money subject to an interest rate of 3%, while banks around Europe are availing of loans from the ECB at an interest rate of 1%. The tax payer in Ireland is paying three times the rate of the Banks, the same banks that got us into this mess!

 Coupled with our banking crisis we are spending €20 billion a year more than we bring in – a lot of this is down to the large salaries our public servants receive.

Before they gave us the bailout funds the IMF/EU got us to sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ whereby we agreed to austerity measures in exchange for the loan. The Government agreed to cut and cut they did. As usual it’s the most vulnerable who are paying the price of the extravagances of the better off.

The vulnerable are being singled out - this is in stark contravention of the European Disability Strategic Plan.

The general objective of which, is the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of disability and securing full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for persons with disabilities as well as their active inclusion.

 The lives of thousands of CIL members are being adversely affected by cuts to funding.

On the Friday of the August bank holiday weekend, when many of the decision makers headed off on their summer holidays, many of our members received a letter saying that their personal assistance hours were being cut.

 At the stroke of a pen, without any further needs assessment, many people with disabilities were effectively confined to their homes, yet incredibly the Irish Government continues to deny that this is happening.

Of the 22 CILs in Ireland, 19 of them run services through what is known as a community employment (CE) scheme. In the national budget delivered on the 6th of December last it was announced that the funding for CE was being cut by 66%.

This is on top of the accumulative 11% cut to our core organisational funding over the last 2 years.

CIL held meetings in December with the Irish Ministers for Social Protection and Disability, together with their officials, promises were given to make up shortfalls but the cuts went ahead regardless.

None of the CE schemes received any of the promised funds and personal assistance hours continue to be cut.

I could go on but I think it’s more effective to let you hear from those who have been affected most. We received many stories from people with disabilities around Ireland about how the cuts are impacting their lives on a daily basis; Here are some of their stories:

Sharon Tracey from Offaly says - “My name is Sharon Tracey and I am registered blind with the National Council for the Blind of Ireland.  I have been allocated Personal Assistant (PA) service hours from the Offaly Centre for Independent Living (OCIL). What does personal assistance mean to me? The best way for me to describe my new life (with PAS) is like I am looking at my old life in a movie and it is in no means comparable to my life today.

PAS enables me to work I now work full time as an Executive Officer for the Department of Education and Skills, my work along with my personal life has benefited enormously from the P.A. service. I feel I am playing a part within society. I am contributing to the exchequer.”

Reducing my hours makes no sense from either an economic or a social perspective.

For Jim Nolan from County Wexford having personal assistance means that he can get out of his house without it he can’t. Yet the Irish Government are looking at taking this away from him. Jim says “My PA ensures that I can get out of the house, we go for a walk sometimes with me using my rollator or as needed he brings me out in my manual but semi- motorised wheelchair.” Without PAS Jim is effectively confined to his house.

 

Many leaders were afraid to be identified, one leader from Sligo who is facing PA hours cuts said “The reality is that I need PA for all essential tasks such as shopping and cooking. Basic food would only be eaten without shopping. The PA helps to keep the house in order and I rely on the PA to go to doctor appointments

 

Another leader said “If cuts occurred I would be devastated as I don’t know where I would be without the support of Independent Living. In the absence of supports the only alternative would be for me to go into a home”.

 

Thomas Connole from County Clare says “My name is Thomas Connole and I need somebody with me at all times, because I live in a very dark world. Technology has made it brighter in some ways but what has helped me come out of the shadows is my PA service. I get 7.5 hours a week and it’s very hard not to go over my allocation. Those hours are allocated to me after assessment, and they are the bare minimum. With those hours I can live a normal life for example getting the shopping. I got a letter from the Health Service Executive stating that those precious hours were to be cut by 2.5 hours – no consultation – my disability has not changed so therefore my needs have not changed. Therefore without talking to me that letter has taken a chunk of my freedom away. I want to be very clear, without my PA hours I am a prisoner in my own home. I appealed the letter and I was supposed to hear back from them in November 2011 – however I didn’t hear from them till January 2012, and that was only after a lot of persistence on my part. I did not win the appeal.”

 

Tom King is from County Clare “My name is Tom King. The bad days are the ones without the PA. My wife has to help me. There’s a lack of understanding – of money – I need and was assessed to need 32 PA hours – and I only get 10 and a half. Someone is determining my life. That means I have 4 days I manage and 3 days I struggle there are 7 days a week and I have Cystic Fibrosis for all 7.

Do you, think that’s right?

In conclusion and very simply the personal assistance services costs the state less.”

Speaking personally and faced with the realistic possibility of my personal assistance hours being cut not only would I have to give up work but my wife would have to give up work also. This does not make economic sense. I know of a member in county Offaly whose personal assistance hours enabled him to leave Rehab. He has now working a half day a week, his wife is working full time both contributing to the Irish Exchequer.  Institutional care for him cost the Irish State €1,000 a day or €365,000 per annum his personal assistance costs €48,000 per annum in other words PAS was €317,000 cheaper.  More importantly he now lives at home with his children how do you put a value on that?

Enough is enough, the disability community in Ireland is not going to take any more of this, and the cuts being made in Ireland will be resisted. The Irish Government hasn’t even had the moral decency to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, one of the most significant Human Rights instruments in recent years. I can announce that CIL is stepping up its pressure on the Irish Government, today we launch our ‘Campaign 2012’. I call on the Irish State to immediately reverse cuts imposed on the disability sector and to ratify the UN Convention.

Thank you.”