THE decision by the Minister for Health to reverse the decision to cut €10 million from the budget for personal assistants for disabled people has been welcomed by disability campaigners.
The proposal to make €130 million worth of health cuts, including a €10 million cut to personal-assistant hours provided to those with disabilities, sparked fury among disability groups, who organised protests outside the Dáil last week. This led to a climb down by Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, who last Tuesday night announced there would by no cuts in personal assistant hours.
The decision was welcomed by Michael Corbett, the Newport-based member of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), who said the minister had made the right decision.
“From my point of view, I personally welcome [the reversal] … it is great to see ministers prepared to change their mind. Sometimes a minister will stick to their guns just because they fear being lambasted by the media, and it is good to see a minister prepared to reverse a bad decision,” he said.
Hundred of people protested outside the Dáil during a cabinet meeting last week. Mr Corbett thanked all the people who travelled from Mayo and gave them support. He said he was surprised by the support and the goodwill of ordinary people towards their situation.
Mr Corbett explained that people’s mindsets of people with disabilities has changed in the last 15 years, mainly because of the help of personal assistants, as it allows disabled people to live independent lives in the community.
While Mr Corbett welcomed the minister’s reversal, he warned that the ‘fat lady has not sung yet’ and pledged to continue to campaign against cuts in home help and other services. He added that the DFI is looking to sit down with the HSE to help it to continue to deliver existing services while accepting that money has to be saved.
“There are still a lot of services out there that are needed. This has not gone away. We need to talk to [the HSE] and for them to understand there are other ways of saving money. All their policies are towards community living … They must understand there is no point withdrawing services and letting people die,” he said.
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