Carers Support Services: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 589 No. 4

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Penrose on Tuesday, 5 October 2004:

—noting that it is almost 12 months since the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs published its major [1329]report, The Position of Full-Time Carers;

—regretting the failure of the Government to take action to implement the key recommendations contained in the report;

—conscious of the fact that the CSO has produced figures showing that almost 150,000 people in Ireland provide unpaid help for a family member or friend with a disability; and

—aware that carers are saving the State huge expenditure that would arise should those being cared for have to be provided with institutional care;

calls on the Government to recognise the value of the carers’ contribution by:

—the abolition of the means test for the carer’s allowance;

—the introduction of a comprehensive system of assessment of the supports and services required by carers;

—a significant shift of resources to home care subvention;

—the introduction of a respite care grant for all carers;

—the development of a national strategy for carers.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

Ms Sexton: Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  I welcome the motion before the House this evening as it puts the spotlight on a very important issue that affects thousands of families. As a former carer, I appreciate at first hand the dedication, commitment and personal sacrifice required of those who become carers. I also appreciate the sense of isolation involved and it would be hard to read the Private Members’ motion without acknowledging that some areas need to be examined in depth. However, as I have done in past contributions to this House, I reiterate that no one has a monopoly on care in the community.

In 1990 a Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Government introduced the carer’s allowance, followed by the carer’s benefit in 2000 and respite care grant in June 1999. In contrast, [1330]Labour, whose motion we are discussing tonight, did not introduce allowances for carers while in government.

The amendment to the motion outlines the Government’s track record in providing support for carers, with a 310% increase over the period since its introduction. The number of carers entitled to a carer’s allowance has increased by 142% since the previous Government came into office and now stands at 22,300. However, I acknowledge it is not enough and one only has to tune into Joe Duffy’s “Liveline” programme any day of the week to hear genuine and often heartrending accounts by carers who do not have access to sufficient respite, who face bureaucratic obstacles in trying to access State services, have difficulties in getting entitlements, are struggling to make ends meet on the carer’s allowance and feel isolated, neglected and in some cases let down by the State.

However, the solution proposed by the Opposition is simplistic and flawed. While the proposal to abolish the means test on the carer’s allowance might make a good headline, it will not help those who are most vulnerable and in need. If extending the medical card scheme to everyone over 70 has taught us anything, it is that blanket, across the board measures, politically popular at the time, do not necessarily deliver to the public the net benefits anticipated.

In my constituency of Longford-Roscommon we have the highest proportion of carers in the country, 3,763. I am acutely conscious of the limitations of supports that exist for them. The carer’s allowance, benefit, respite, home help and nursing home subventions are well intentioned, but they have constraints. While these can certainly be addressed in small part by increasing carer’s allowance, while it remains means tested some will always frustratingly just exceed these limits. The families of carers would be more impressed by a better way of organising and financing care services.

With one year already passed since the publication of the Mercer report on financing long-term care and Professor Eamon O’Shea’s recommendations on the nursing home subvention scheme, I am anxious for real changes to take place so that the incremental changes that currently occur can be replaced by a redesign of the whole care system. These two reports recognise that a fundamental change is required and not the headline-grabbing proposal to abolish the means test.

In a population of 4 million people, Mercer calculates that 153,000 are in need of some long-term care. This figure will rise in 2011 to 171,000. This means that most of us, whether aged 60 or 90, can look forward confidently to a relatively healthy and independent life. However, for those who need care the worry and stress is very great. Will the State be there to support them? Will personal finance be adequate or will the strain be too much on spouses and families? None of this takes into account the personal trauma associated with [1331]losing a loved one. As a society we have failed to deal with the real concern.

Instead of abolishing the means test, we need to think outside the box on the issue and come up with genuinely innovative solutions which address people’s needs on an individual basis and recognise that each carer has different needs and should be afforded choice. Our carers form one of the most important and vital components of the health of families in the community. The Government recognises this and the proposal I intend to make is testament to that care. We should introduce a new system for people needing long-term care and their families to give choice and consistency in the provision of care. This could replace the present way of funding home help, the nursing home subvention scheme, the carer’s allowance, meals on wheels and the domiciliary care allowance.

Building on the commitment of the Tánaiste at our annual party conference and reiterated on radio last week, we propose that tax revenue available from the SSIA scheme should provide substantial additional funding for the new scheme. It would be straightforward, streamlined and simple. This new scheme would end the inconsistencies that exist across the different schemes, which confuse and frustrate carers and the people for whom they care. While in some instances the entitlements exist, people must overcome bureaucratic red tape to access them. We want to eliminate that entirely.

The new scheme would give greater power and choice to people needing care and to their families. It would support care at home as the primary choice of that care system over the institutional care system we have at present. It would be a financially sustainable and predictable care system, taking away the fear of the financial and family burdens associated with long-term care. This proposal if implemented would mean that people who need care would be given the resources depending on their level of medical need, which they could use as they wish to purchase a mix of home help, payments to family carers, nursing home care, respite care, meals on wheels or whatever else they needed. Such a model successfully operates in Austria.

While providing choice is not necessarily an additional cost, in theory it would be a reorganisation of spending based on the cared-for person’s choice accompanied by additional resources to show increased support for carers and people needing care.

Additional resources would come from the money the Government saves from the SSIA scheme, which will end in April 2007. After this, all the tax revenue, which is now credited to the SSIA accounts, will be counted in the national accounts as revenue. Budget 2007, which will be delivered in December 2006, will therefore be able to count on two thirds of the SSIA tax revenue and the following year’s budget can count on the full amount. While using this revenue for [1332]a spending programme will significantly raise spending levels, it will not affect the general Government balance as the revenue is not counted before it is credited to the SSIA.

Mr. Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I congratulate the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, on his appointment to that portfolio. That office gives the holder a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of a caring and equal society and I wish the Minister well in that. I also congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, on his appointment. I look forward to working closely with him and his colleagues in the coming years.

In as far as possible I want to avoid indulging in the “Oh yes you did, oh no you didn’t” style of debate, which does not help anybody. Anybody listening to today’s “Liveline” programme will recognise the depth of feeling attached to the issue of caring and carers in our society. Their value cannot be measured in terms of monetary contribution; their social value is immeasurable. Their role within families and in society saves the taxpayer millions each year in services and support, the financial burden of which would otherwise fall on the Exchequer.

Those who are most in need of care are the elderly in our society. According to the last census of population, 436,001 persons in Ireland are over the age of 65. These are the people who built the Celtic tiger economy. Their taxes, paid at the highest levels, kept the country from bankruptcy in the early 1980s.

Two weeks ago we saw the launch of the Disability Bill. This is the first comprehensive attempt to make provision to ensure that those with disabilities are able to participate fully in every aspect of Irish life without discrimination. A multi-annual funding envelope for disabilities will be announced in the forthcoming budget. The carer’s allowance is a vital instrument in assisting those who suffer from disabilities to remain in the home and to live their lives with dignity. Just yesterday the CSO published figures which state that 150,000 people provide unpaid help to a family member or friend with a disability or health problem. The CSO figures also suggest that approximately 3,000 people between the ages of 15 and 17 take on the role as an unpaid carer in the home. When I read that I was surprised — perhaps I should have known it. These are the people who hold together the fabric of society. I put on the record of the Dáil my personal appreciation for the work that paid and unpaid carers do every day of the year.

Fianna Fáil is committed to assisting carers during its time in office. Expenditure on carers’ payments has increased by 310%, from €46.36 million in 1997 to €190.2 million at the end of last year. The number of people receiving carer’s allowance has increased by 142% since the Government took office in 1997 and now stands at 22,300. The carer’s allowance has been increased by €68.28 for those over 66 and by [1333]€50.08, or 56%, for those under 66 over the last seven budgets. The allowance represents just a fraction of the value that carers contribute to society. Carers do not give selflessly to their families or friends for financial gain, but because of their love and compassion. I do not suggest that they should forgo recompense or settle for a token financial reward.

The current level of allowance has increased consistently in recent years. I am confident the Ministers for Finance and Social and Family Affairs will maintain the commitment shown by their predecessors. The Government took a prudent economic approach to a harsh international economic storm so that resources could be focused on the most needy and deserving in society when the economy again showed signs of growth. I agree with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, who said in the House last night that it seems likely the new Minister for Finance will have some discretionary spend when he announces his budget. I urge the Minister to devote additional resources to carers.

The Government’s real financial commitment is proof of its commitment to carers. In this year’s budget, the amount of income disregarded in the means test for carer’s allowance was increased to €250 in the case of a single person and to €500 in the case of a couple. The Government showed its commitment to supporting the valuable work undertaken by carers by increasing the annual respite care grant by €100 to €835. Carers who look after more than one person receive a grant of €1,670. While I admit that the Government started from a low base, the support it is providing to carers is not insignificant, although it is inadequate. The level of carer’s allowance permits those dedicating their lives to helping others to live with some level of dignity.

We must aspire to ensuring that carers do not have to give of themselves selflessly at the expense of financial or career advancement. Such aspirations are not seen in Fianna Fáil as pious, but as deeply held convictions that are shared by many of my colleagues. Unlike members of the Opposition, our actions speak louder than empty rhetoric. Contrary to the view that the Opposition purports to hold, the Government is providing for those who had to struggle to survive in the past with little or no assistance from the State. The days when couples feared the onset of old age because of the angst of leaving a disabled child to the care of friends or relatives is almost a thing of the past, thankfully. The provisions made by the Government are easing such fears.

Ireland needs to make further progress in ancillary services for the disabled and aged community, a process which has started. The Government recognises that a society is judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. Fianna Fáil will continue to work to provide the most comprehensive system of support for carers. Recognition of the invaluable work in which they are involved is payment enough for some carers, but the carer’s allowance is a lifeline for others. Fianna Fáil will [1334]endeavour to continue to improve carers’ welfare and the health and educational facilities which enable those who require care to live in dignity.

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen): Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Tááthas orm a bheith anseo mar Aire Stáit. Gabhaim buíochas leis na comhleacaithe a thraoslaigh liom. Táábhar tábhachtach á phlé againn. Cé gur scéim nua go leor í an íocaíocht do dhaoine a thugann cúram do ghaol nó duine eile sa bhaile, ní aontaím gur cóir í a íoc le chuile dhuine gan trácht ar ioncaim. Is léir go bhfuil daoine áirithe i bhfad níos mó i nganntanas ná iad siúd i gcásanna eile. B’fhearr liom go ndéanfaí gach iarracht cabhair a thabhairt dos na daoine atá go mór faoi bhrú. Caithfimid a adhmháil go bhfuil daoine áirithe sna cásanna seo go mór faoi bhrú.

I am probably obliged to declare an interest at this point, as my household would benefit from carer’s payments if the terms of the motion were to be introduced. Some people may well believe that households with earnings of over €100,000 per annum should qualify for this hugely important payment and there may well be a time when that will be possible. I do not share such a view and I do not believe it is shared by most people in this country. I am convinced that the resources, financial and otherwise, which are available should be directed to those in most need.

Carers and their families have needs at several levels. It is clear that many people have a substantial financial burden. That many people lose out because of administrative decisions and low income thresholds needs to be addressed urgently. There is a considerable disparity in the amount of care that is needed. Many factors need to be considered, such as the severity of the relevant illness or disability and the level of time and commitment required to provide an appropriate level of care. Carers need many support services. While there have been some improvements in that regard, such services tend to be relatively poor and unevenly distributed throughout the country.

I pay tribute to the Carers Association and its CEO, Mr. Enda Egan, as well as the Caring for Carers organisation, which operates in my constituency. Many other local groups and organisations contribute to making the life of a carer much more bearable and less difficult than it might otherwise be.

As I said earlier, the financial need of some carers is not the most significant. Other carers face substantial financial difficulties, however. I understand that the gross cost of abolishing the means test would be approximately €180 million per annum. Could such funds be put to better use? I consider that such funds could be spent more effectively in the short and medium terms. Those whose earnings are currently barely above the income guidelines could benefit significantly from such moneys. They would certainly benefit [1335]to a greater extent than those in the higher income groups, such as my family.

Tonight’s motion is timely because it is important to remind ourselves of the huge debt we owe to carers. In many cases, individual beneficiaries of caring cannot express gratitude or provide recompense to carers. Society and the State must step into that breach to try to ensure that the huge debt we owe to carers is acknowledged. That debt needs to be repaid in a targeted manner. Some considerable improvements have been made but, in the context of this debate, we need to acknowledge that a huge amount of work remains to be done. We should focus on continuing to improve the level of financial support. As the motion suggests, we need to examine a range of other supports which might be necessary.

I understand the terms of reference of the Mercer report, which was published recently, related to the potential to the public sector of a combined public and private sector approach to assisting and funding long-term care. The report also spoke about the potential of the PRSI system to financing and funding long-term care. It examined whether the current system of long-term care financing should remain the status quo. The report, which is an important document, is currently at a consultation stage. It should form an important part of the carers’ support strategy, following the receipt of submissions from the groups which have been consulted.

Carer’s allowance was introduced quite recently, in November 1990. Members on neither side of the House can take kudos for its late arrival. There have been annual increases ranging from 2.5% to 12%. There have been several significant improvements in the conditions applying to recipients of the payment. In 1997, there was a 50% increase for dual carers. In 1999, a modest respite care payment was introduced, and carers were allowed ten hours a week in paid employment. That was subsequently increased to 20 hours a week. It is undoubtedly important to the financial conditions of the carer, but it is also important to address the sense of isolation which so many carers will tell one is their daily, weekly and ongoing lot. It impinges severely on the main carer and everyone in a family in which caring is a reality. I look forward to seeing incremental rises and improvements in the allowance and the benefit payments to carers. If this debate advances that, it will have been very useful. In the meantime, I want to see the money targeted towards those most in need.

Mr. Callanan: Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  As a member of the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs which produced a report on carers, I am delighted to say a few words on the subject. Long before I entered this House, I campaigned for carers and tried to make it easier for them to qualify for carer’s allowance. The Government has come a long way towards that since 1997. I thank the Ministers, Deputy Dermot Ahern and Deputy Coughlan, [1336]for that. A few years ago, if a person came to me hoping to apply for carer’s allowance but had any kind of reasonable income, I would have said that he or she would not qualify. However, now, owing to the fact that the first €500 of a married couple’s income is discarded, a fair number of people qualify — 22,300. That is an increase of 142% since 1997. The respite grant has also increased to €835 for someone looking after one person and €1,670 for more than one person. That respite grant is valuable, as it gives a carer a break. What most carers need is to be recognised for their great work.

The carer’s benefit was introduced in 2000 and allowed a person to take 15 months off work to care for someone. That 15-month period should be extended, if necessary, to 30 months. There is also a problem with those on a widow’s pension, since they cannot qualify for a carer’s allowance unless they give it up. That is unfair, and something should be done about it. The committee recommended that widows should get an extra half rate, or €70 per week, if they qualify for carer’s allowance. It also recommended that the means test for carers should be eased and, in time, perhaps discontinued altogether. However, that would entail a cost of €180 million a year.

The way forward is to introduce a home-based subvention which gives the elderly in particular the choice of staying in their own homes for as long as possible. That choice is not available currently because all subvention payments are geared towards nursing homes. I have nothing against such homes, but most surveys of the elderly find that they would be happier being cared for at home, and that is most people’s view. Will the Minister, Deputy Brennan, contact the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, who deals with the subvention? Between them, they should introduce a mix of carer’s allowance and home-based subvention which would be suitable to carers and patients alike.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Brennan, who is a fellow Galway man. He is caring and will be an excellent Minister for Social and Family Affairs. I look forward to working with him.

Mr. F. McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I am sharing time with Deputies James Breen, Cowley, Healy, Boyle and Crowe. I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Brennan, on his recent appointment to his new Department.

I support the motion. We now have an opportunity to put our money where our mouth is and see if all the talk of recent days about a more caring Government is a reality or just more old guff. I support the needs of carers, which include the abolition of means testing for the carer’s allowance. I also pay tribute to the carers who look after 35,000 children with disabilities, 3,000 people with dementia, 10,000 people disabled by strokes, and 50,000 older people. As we heard, this package would cost approximately €180 million. However, the carers’ work at present is worth at least €1.9 billion annually to the State. Those [1337]people are health patriots and do a great job, many of them against the odds, and they need and deserve our support. I challenge all parties and all Deputies in the House tonight to get off the fence and support this motion. This is a time for leadership and a chance to take tough decisions in the interests of vulnerable people.

I have promised the people of Dublin North-Central that I will push the health and disability agenda in the Dáil. I am living up to that commitment. This issue should be above party politics, and I urge everyone in the House to support carers and send out a strong message of compassion and humanity. When we debate this issue and the health service generally, we must think of two key words, “reform” and “investment”. Both are contained in this policy statement and I commend Deputy Penrose on having brought it before the House. Now is the time to implement it. We have had enough talk, spin and image making. These are the basic core values of a healthy society. I welcome any change of heart from the major political parties and urge them to move in the right direction. The people are demanding change and radical reform and investment in our health services.

I also raise the current situation of waiting lists for people with intellectual disabilities. There are still 1,382 people on residential waiting lists, 621 seeking day care places and 823 respite care. People are on trolleys and chairs in accident and emergency departments, and children are acting as carers. I support the Disability Federation of Ireland’s pre-budget submission launched today. It included the cost of disability payments, income for people with disabilities, community employment, accommodation for people who experience mental illness, the young chronic sick, disabled person’s housing grant, child carers and funding for voluntary and disability organisations. Those are all part of the debate. I urge all Deputies to support this excellent motion which deserves their support. Last night I heard the Minister, Deputy Brennan, speak of social justice. Now is the chance to put that talk into action by supporting our motion.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister last September asking her to abolish the means test for carers. The Ceann Comhairle disallowed my question, saying that it might pre-empt the budget. However, there was nothing in the budget.

Anyone looking after a loved one in their own home should be entitled to carer’s allowance, regardless of their income. If a person is put into full-time care in a nursing home, it will cost the State approximately €60,000 a year. Surely it would be more economic to provide care for them in their own homes. I am calling on the Minister to consider a home subvention scheme. Full-time carers will have to be looked after by the State. Most of our nursing homes are overcrowded and understaffed. In my county, there is a waiting list for admission to nursing homes. [1338]People caring for a father, mother, son or daughter in overcrowded conditions should be entitled to a grant to build an extension and allow those needing care to live in the loving care and attention of their own homes. I know a person in my own county who applied for a carer’s grant. He was €1 a week over the limit and did not get it.

Will the Minister remove the anomaly whereby a widow does not qualify for carer’s allowance, something she enjoyed before she became a widow? Will he also remove the anomaly whereby a carer travelling to Dublin with a person under 16 will get free travel while the person under 16 must pay? That is ridiculous and should be removed. All our services for children with disabilities are based in Dublin.

We have heard a great deal about the caring Government that Fianna Fáil is going to present to us now by means of a Cabinet change. I wish the Minister well. He has a tough job, but he needs to give us something, to act now, to show he is serious about looking after carers. They should be paid and looked after. I am confident the Minister, coming from the west and following his speech last night, will deliver.

Dr. Cowley: Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  I wish the Minister well in his new job. It will be all right for him to deliver on this issue because the all-party Oireachtas committee has said this is the way forward. Everyone in the Dáil and in Ireland would have to agree that the carer’s allowance should not be means tested. I compliment the Labour Party on bringing forward this motion, and it is very important that the Minister supports it. It would send out the message that the Government wishes to send out, that it is a caring Government. Many people feel that the Government is not at all caring. This is one area in which the Minister can make his mark and I urge him to do so.

As my colleagues beside me have noted, it makes great sense to prevent people from going into nursing homes. Many people go into such homes far away from their own homes. What is better than to have people stay in their own homes if at all possible? We all aspire to that. If a loving relative is prepared to provide care, what better end could one have than to spend one’s last days in one’s own home? It is wonderful that some disabled people can be cared for at home. Many people end up in care and in profit-driven nursing homes because it is not feasible for them to stay at home.

The motion makes great sense. Much lip service is paid to the idea of keeping people at home and to the value of that. Here is the way forward and the opportunity to allow many people to stay at home. Some 20% of people in nursing homes should not be there. If the Minister supports this motion, he will ensure that many of those people will be able to stay in their own homes. Even if they could not do so, they could possibly be catered for in sheltered housing. That is where a defined revenue funding scheme would help. Yet [1339]home is best, and anything else second best. I urge the Minister to support the motion and to make a mark for himself. He can do so by abolishing the means test for carer’s allowance.

Mr. Healy: Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  I support the motion and compliment the Labour Party on tabling it. In particular I support the abolition of the means test for carer’s allowance. The current payment is approximately €139.40, less than €1 per hour over a week for people who provide 24-hour care every day of the week. That is a very small payment, but it is one which saves the Exchequer a huge amount of money and ensures that people are looked after at home. The means test should be abolished and anyone caring full time at home for either an elderly or disabled person should automatically qualify for the allowance.

There is a related issue not referred to in the motion. The carer’s allowance should be paid in addition to the social welfare payment. Currently, someone in receipt of a social welfare payment loses it when receiving a carer’s allowance, which in effect means that in most cases the carer’s allowance amounts to approximately €60 per week.

The housing aid for the elderly scheme and the disabled person’s grant scheme are totally underfinanced. They are very important schemes which, if used properly, will save the Exchequer a great deal of money. If only on that basis, and not on that of humanity, I urge the Minister to accept the motion before the House.

Mr. Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Yesterday, in speaking in this debate, while making his first contribution to the House as Minister for Social and Family Affairs, the Minister defined his philosophy of social justice which, as I understood it, was that he believed in developing the economy so that additional resources could be made available to those in need. On the surface, that sounds like a perfectly reasoned philosophy, but there are a number of difficulties with it. It leaves open the timeframe involved for meeting those needs. It also divides society into an economy and a society, whereby those who have the capacity and who are not burdened with family ties or social commitment are allowed to create and take as much wealth as possible so that we get a very unbalanced, uneven society. Unfortunately, that has been the net effect of that type of philosophy over the past ten years.

I believe in a diametrically opposed philosophy, I believe that the poorest society, at the poorest moment of its history, should always first look after those most in need. Until we can get that balance right and reverse the social policy dynamic we have had in this country, I fear that the poor, the disadvantaged and the incapacitated will always wait. That is why we are having such a debate this evening. The motion before us indicates the manner in which many people not only [1340]in this House but in this society believe we should advance and how we should meet existing needs.

As the Minister reads himself into his brief, he will become aware of the situation facing the majority of carers, who are themselves social welfare recipients, of pensionable age and either in need of care or close to that need. The sentiment has been expressed even on the Government benches that we cannot put an economic value on what carers do for our society. Why not? In debates like this we constantly hear Governments pleading inability to pay because of lack of resources or willingness to put an economic value on carers in our society. This too is an imbalance. We have a Government which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

On this issue we have a clear, diametrically opposed view as to how we should progress as a society. In terms of how we progress this debate, the Minister could take the opportunity to say that the money can be provided other than by direct payments. The burden could be eased by a carer’s tax credit for those who can avail of it if they have an additional outside income. There is the suggestion of getting rid of this notion that the Minister spoke of during Question Time, that somehow those already in receipt of a social welfare payment should not or could not be in receipt of an additional payment. We should show imagination and the breadth of wisdom that suggests that social welfare should be structured in such a way that payments should be provided for according to need. They should allow for the overcoming of artificial barriers in terms of means and that people are expected to jump through hoops to do what we as a society and a nation should be doing.

Until we have such a reasoned approach to the needs of carers in our society, an honest policy approach to this issue, I have to express again the sentiment I expressed in similar debates on subjects like this in the past, we will have many more of these debates. The motion before us is simple and clear-cut. This House should address it unanimously and we should provide the resources to address it immediately. Unfortunately, the Government has chosen the St. Augustine approach, “Make me pure, but not yet.”

Mr. Crowe: Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. The motion is timely in that the Minister was in the House earlier to answer questions on carers. Members are aware of the difficulties involved. We all know of carers looking after the elderly or loved ones and Members on all sides agree we have not done enough for them.

The word which sums up the view of most carers is “frustration”, born mostly of the feeling that no-one listens to them, that their work is taken as given and that they are ignored by the Government and the State. As we do not even know the full extent of the problem or the number of people in care, how can we address the problem? The age of those in care ranges from the very young to the very old and includes [1341]grandparents, sisters, brothers, parents, friends and neighbours. Reference was made to rural areas. One of the aspects which holds rural communities together is the goodwill of neighbours and friends looking after the elderly, not State intervention.

It is accepted that carers save the State a significant amount of money. Full-time carers work twice as hard as ordinary employees and are on-call 24 hours a day but receive an allowance of €735 just once a year. This is supposedly to deal with respite care. However, if one talks to those trying to put a loved one in residential care or take him or her on holidays, the allowance does not cover the cost. It is not enough and the Minister must reconsider this.

A well thought-out national strategy for carers is needed. Given his recent appointment, the Minister has an opportunity to take advantage of widespread support among his party and the Opposition if he is prepared to bring about the minimal changes sought. I commend the Labour Party motion to the House. It outlines the difficulties involved and puts forward not radical proposals but ones which should be acceptable to all parties. They would resolve the problem, which must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  It is said that in assessing a situation one must be clinical in one’s appraisal but sympathetic in one’s approach. However, no sympathy is being shown for the great elderly people of this country. A person who came home to look after an 89 year old father received a form with which to claim carer’s allowance. It was five pages long and the person could not face answering all the questions on it. I compliment Deputy Penrose on bringing forward this motion to recognise the value of carers by the abolition of the means test for carer’s allowance.

The Labour Party’s draft carers Bill suggests a new section 6 to amend the Health Act 1970 by substituting a new section for section 61 which deals with the home help service. The new section 6 substitutes the word “shall” for “may”, thus making the provision of much needed home help services mandatory. Home help hours have been reduced, leaving recipients quite vulnerable.

Respite care is also important. Care should be given to family members who themselves provide 24-hour care. Many experienced carers are left alone with nobody to talk to about the importance of their work when their elderly relatives go into respite care. The Government failed to recognise this and to provide for their care outside the context of the means test. Those providing care must be considered and security must be provided for them.

On subvention, it is appalling that carers are given application forms for private nursing homes which they have no choice but to accept. However, when their means are assessed, they find they cannot afford to pay for the nursing homes. By that stage the patient is in the private nursing home, which is a disgrace to the elderly. [1342]The Minister should accept the motion to give confidence and security to the elderly. Many people need full-time care in the same way that those with physical and sensory disabilities need it.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I compliment Deputy Penrose on his timely motion. I listened with interest to the Minister’s contribution in which he seemed to acknowledge handsomely the work done by carers. He spoke about the changes in the demographics of the country whereby an increasing number of women are working and, thankfully, people are living to a much older age. As a consequence, many in their declining years need varying degrees of assistance and care at home. One point that informs this debate is that most Members, especially women Members, at some stage have been or will be carers. It is part and parcel of being a human being that when one is a small child, one receives care but, as one gets older and has family and community responsibilities, one gives care.

As a society, we are understandably proud of our economic achievements, the numbers at work and how rich we are. However, in many ways Fianna Fáil has moved away from the notions that informed its founding fathers and mothers, one of which was that the community, the meitheal, looked after its own and each other. Given the reports, I understand the Minister was not happy with his move to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Perhaps it will be the making of him. The Minister in this debate referred to his youth in Galway and his experience of his father and community reaching out to look after others. However, what of a young family who discover next week that one of their children has been born with a severe and permanent disability? That family goes from being quite well off, with both parents at work, to suddenly having a reliance on the State which did not previously enter the equation. As well as the shock of having to come to terms with a child who will need special care all his or her life, they then enter into a bureaucratic nightmare where the State coldly says that unless they jump through the income hoops — they are very high and difficult, with an income limit of less than €30,000 in the case of a couple with two incomes — the State will not be particularly easy about offering help. In the context of today’s Celtic tiger, the income of a couple, perhaps two teachers or the nurse and the garda often referred to by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, could easily exceed €30,000. However, the Government says to that family who have just had a special child that it will not be particularly easy about offering help even though their child will need lifelong care and attention and all their efforts. It is wrong not to address that issue.

Last week we had a parting gift from the former Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, as he set out to succeed Commissioner Bolkestein [1343]in the European Union. It was an extraordinary set of figures. Every day this year so far the weekly take from PAYE has exceeded expectations by more €4.5 million per day. If the Minister were to target some of that excess money towards helping carers, it would do substantial good.

I worked on and off for a long period with young adults who have a permanent disability and who, while not necessarily in need of carers as people with high levels of dependence might be, need personal assistance. Despite economic prosperity, during the lifetime of this Government, scheme after scheme has been either reduced or eliminated. The concept of the personal attendant, which was pioneered by one of the Minister’s predecessors, Deputy Michael Woods, and myself when we were in the Department of Social Welfare, has remained at the same level. These are young people. Many of them have exceptional talent and could be out working but they are wheelchair dependent and dependent on being able to employ a special care assistant to lead the kind of life that a young active disabled adult person should be able to lead. Shame on the Government that it has failed to respond to their needs.

My colleague, Deputy Sherlock, spoke about elderly people. This week and every week elderly people will be released from hospitals to return to cold homes with little access to home help or community care. Many will not be able to obtain even minimal grants to adapt their homes for special needs. Small amounts of money will go a long way towards making people that bit more independent and postpone the day when they must opt for full-time care in a nursing home or in a community facility. It is one area where we lag behind almost every other European country. People with special needs in our society, whether they are young or old, ought to be treated as special people. Instead it sometimes seems this Government is determined to pay no more than lip-service. Deputy Penrose’s Bill essentially suggests that the Government do for carers what was done by the late Frank Cluskey of the Labour Party in the Government of 1973-77 when he introduced the concept of universal payments for lone parents and upped the level of what used to be called children’s allowance and is now child benefit. Giving a universal payment cuts out means testing. It gives people with a special and lifelong need an easy way to access some support from the State. It is long past the time when this Government ought to have taken a brave decision and moved forward on that road, as Deputy Penrose’s Bill sets out very clearly.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Earlier in the debate the new Minister for Social and Family Affairs seemed satisfied that 22,000 carers now receive the carer’s allowance and that these 22,000 represent 55% of full-time carers. This is presumably based on CSO estimates of citizens engaged in full time care of relatives with disability in the home, although the [1344]last review of the carer’s allowance placed the number of citizens giving effective seven-day, 24-hour care at approximately 55,000 people. Even by the Minister’s limited definition, the Minister and his Department should be thoroughly ashamed of their policy towards carers because those figures are an admission that nearly half the people engaged in seven-day, 24-hour, year in, year out care of loved ones still do not qualify for carer’s allowance or carer’s benefit.

The reality is much worse than the Minister’s figures indicate. A litany of reports in the past 20 years puts the true figure for carers at anything between 150,000 and 200,000 citizens. We do not know how many there are. We have no database. Six or seven years ago, the carer’s charter asked for a comprehensive database to be prepared. In the past seven years, the Department of Social and Family Affairs never busied itself with effectively carrying out that work. Local and regional studies show that the great majority of carers are female — between 70% and 80%; that many are elderly, with a quarter over 65 years and, according to one study, 20% over 70; that many carers suffer from a serious illness and are sometimes chronically ill; and that many are “hidden carers” working diligently in isolation for infirm relatives with minimum support from the Government or local health bodies.

A seminal study of carers, carried out by Dr. Francesca Lundström from my constituency for Care Alliance Ireland, reports that carers of older persons are most often spouses and siblings and that the care of the elderly is by the elderly. The thorough report of the South Eastern Health Board, Listening to the Voice of Carers, found that the average age of carers in the south east was 56 years, that 20% are over 70, that nearly 12% cared for two or more people, and that an appalling figure of 83% did not receive the carer’s allowance. That report was carried out only a few years ago.

This is the reality against which Labour’s spokesperson, Deputy Willie Penrose, framed the motion and heads of the Bill before us tonight. I warmly commend Deputy Penrose and urge him to continue and intensify the struggle on behalf of carers. Throughout its history, the Labour Party has rightly highlighted the sad plight of carers and those for whom they care. Even in the past seven and a half years of bitter and often sterile opposition, our spokespersons, Deputies Moynihan-Cronin and Penrose and myself for a period played a fundamental role on behalf of the Labour Party in promoting the carer’s benefit. It was our amendments which succeeded in persuading one of the Minister’s predecessors, Deputy Dermot Ahern, to extend the benefit to 65 weeks when we sought a three year timeframe. We also successfully applied pressure to increase the levels of respite grant and the carer’s allowance. As chairman of the Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Penrose has rightly placed the concerns of carers at the top of the political agenda and issued a fine all-party [1345]report on the position of full-time carers which should be accepted in full by the Minister, Deputy Brennan.

Most serious Members of this House do not need to read the burgeoning literature on carers. On a weekly basis we encounter heartrending cases of the invaluable, massive work and intense sufferings of carers. People often arrive into my clinic with a fully or partially completed carer’s application form, having sometimes been sent to me by a local general practitioner. Often these applicants are elderly women whose husbands have suddenly become immobile or infirm or whose ongoing medical condition has sharply deteriorated. Applicants include mothers of young families, whose husbands have suffered life-changing injuries, trying to live on the few hundred euro of disability benefit a week. There are parents who care for a child with a severe disability needing 24-hour care. There are younger men and women who feel deeply obliged to care for a parent with severe disability, especially when the other parent, the previous caregiver, has died, perhaps partly from the intense overwork and stress that goes with caring.

  8 o’clock

This timely motion should not be opposed. In last night’s debate the Minister set out a political philosophy that would respond to the needs of the most vulnerable sections in society. He now has an opportunity to put it into practice by addressing this issue. His predecessor, Deputy Coughlan, one of the worst Ministers for Social and Family Affairs shamefully ignored the plight of the carers. She never once responded to any issue I raised on behalf of my constituents. At least her predecessor, Deputy Dermot Ahern, gave some thought to this by dealing with students of the area in his office. However, even he was not prepared to grasp the nettle fully.

In 1996, the Oireachtas report, Long Term Support Framework For Female Carers, written by Mel Cousins, argued that the means test for the carer’s allowance should be removed over a certain time frame and that the national aim should be to award the allowance to carers of all citizens requiring full-time care. The Labour Party supported this and the abolition of the means test was one of Deputy Quinn’s key policies in the 2002 general election. The report of Deputy Penrose’s Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs is unanimously of the same view.

In his 2000 report the Comptroller and Auditor General examined the expansion of the carer’s allowance and the necessity for full records of carers and those with disabilities receiving care. He anticipated that a Government would one day have the courage, decency and integrity to begin caring for the carers. The response of the Secretary General of the then Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs was striking. It revealed that the average duration of a carer’s allowance is only three years and that large numbers of applicants are refused every year on [1346]the grounds of income earned. For example, between 1999 and 2001, approximately 11,000 carers were awarded an allowance but approximately 9,000 applicants were turned down. Tens of thousands of others did not even bother applying because the income disregards were so low.

The introduction of a comprehensive system of assessment of the support and services required by carers, the shifting of resources to home care subvention and respite care for all carers are critically important. The draft carers Bill is similar to the Carers (Recognition, Needs Assessment and Services) Bill that I introduced several years ago. The draft Bill correctly provides for a statutory right of a carer to an assessment of his or her needs by a health board. It also considers the situation of both the carer and the person being cared for. Most importantly the Bill places the home help service on a statutory basis in section 6. Section 3 greatly increases the availability of respite care and abolishes the means test for carer’s allowance.

Since 1997, the advocates of carers have pleaded with the Government to recognise the often heroic work done by carers and to at least provide basic income and services support for them. When one re-reads the carer’s charter, proposed by Professor Joyce O’Connor on behalf of the caring for the carers project, it is clear that the mean-spirited and uncaring Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government has failed to deliver a single element of its 14 points. We are still arguing about the true numbers of carers because there is still no register of carers. There is no carer’s payment or no cost of disability payment. There is no carer’s additional payment for those already on social welfare benefit. Respite care is limited and the home help and personal assistant service is poorly resourced. There is no ombudsman for carers or a local caring partnership structure between home carers and health professionals. After eight years, no White Paper or legislation on carers has yet been published. There is little or no planning for the future where 40% of us will need caring in our later years. Above all, there is no constitutional protection for carers and the Labour Party’s proposed revision of Article 41.2 to support carers has been ignored. The carer’s charter is a challenge for us all. Tonight Deputy Penrose has taken a fundamental step in meeting that challenge, which this House should applaud.

Mr. Wall: Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  I wish the Minister, Deputy Brennan, well in his new brief. Many difficult tasks lie ahead for him. The Minister claims that €16,000 will be put aside for the Carers’ Association to prepare information packs. However, in County Kildare there will not be much need for those packs as many there have been refused the care of the elderly grant, the essential repairs grant and the disabled person’s grant. What does this mean to an individual that must care for a loved one at home because the Government will not provide funding for these three essential [1347]schemes? It means further hardships will be endured by carers. If an individual cannot receive a care of the elderly grant, it means no shower can be purchased and the person must continue to be put into the bath. It means that person must be carried to bed because no lift is available. This lack of funding extends the hardship for people who have given their lives to looking after their loved ones. It is an indictment of the Government. The Minister must insist that his and other Departments recognise the other factors involved in the carer’s allowance.

The issue has been raised many times. However resolving it is always put on the long finger while the unfortunate carers continue, against the odds, to strive to provide a normal life for their loved ones. In doing so, their physical strength and outlook in life is greatly diminished. While many of us can plan our holidays, many carers do not have such an opportunity as they must wait to see if respite care is available to them. They cannot get the glossy brochures from the travel agents. Instead, for the odd weekend away, they must ensure the provision of a hospital bed from the local director of nursing.

A Progressive Democrats Member claimed the carer’s allowance must be means-tested. There should not be a means test and there should be no hindrance in the provision of the care of the elderly grant, the essential repairs grant or the disabled person’s grant. They are all associated with one issue, the pressure we put on families who are caring for their loved ones.

I wish the Minister well with his portfolio. It is a wider brief than simply getting rid of the means test for the carer’s allowance. All other aspects I mentioned must be taken into account as well.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. B. Lenihan): Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate and to remind colleagues of what the Government has achieved in the area of care for older persons and persons with disabilities. Everybody accepts that carers make a valuable contribution to our society. It is said that nobody is indispensable in this life but where family carers are concerned, I disagree. Without people doing that work, our society would be a much poorer place. That is why the Government will continue to support our carers in their work and, indeed, the people for whom they care.

In the past two years the essential task of the Government was to consolidate the economic gains made in recent years. That often required that difficult decisions be made. The Government is as committed as any Member of the House to promoting caring and it has not been found lacking in providing support. Funding for carers and services for older persons and persons with disabilities has never been higher. A total of €115 million has been allocated to the nursing home subvention scheme this year and €2.5 billion is [1348]being provided for disability specific services. Over €3 million has been made available to voluntary organisations, including the Carers Association mentioned by Deputy Wall. A total of €1.25 million has been made available to develop community care support services for older persons and expenditure on carers’ payments in the Department of Social and Family Affairs is estimated to be in the region of €212 million this year. These are just a few examples of how money is being invested in caring.

I agree with Deputy Wall that this area must be considered in a holistic manner, not just in terms of a financial payment. Of course, the means test could be improved. The ultimate objective of a non-means tested carer’s benefit is desirable but if one is to look at this practically and in an evolutionary manner, the means test must be examined. The rates of payment to carers have been steadily increasing during the Government’s time in office. The carer’s allowance rates of payment have been increased by 76% for those over 66 years and by 56% for those under 66 years over the last seven budgets. It has become easier to qualify for this payment.

I will spare the blushes of the Labour Party and not refer to the last time it was in government. It is now looking forward to when it might next be in government. The amount of the respite care grant which is paid with carer’s allowance has increased by 229% over five successive budgets. Those carers who are caring for more than one person have seen an increase of over 550% in the amount of respite care grant which they received over the past five years.

Steady progress has been made on a number of initiatives which are changing the shape of services for carers, older persons and persons with disabilities. In 2000, the then Minister for Social and Family Affairs introduced a carer’s benefit scheme. This was quickly followed by the introduction of a carer’s leave scheme to support those who have to leave work temporarily to provide care. These are unique schemes in Europe to support carers who are working full time. I hope it signals to carers how much their work is appreciated.

Further innovations are under way which demonstrate the concern and commitment the Government has for carers and the persons for whom they care. The new personal care packages and home subvention measures are being promoted as an alternative to long stay residential care. The administration and operation of the nursing home subvention scheme is being examined. A national implementation group has been established to put structures in place to deal with cases of elder abuse. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs published the study to examine the future financing of long-term care in Ireland last year. An extensive public consultation process is now under way to assist with policy development in the area of financing long-term care.

[1349]Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  There are plenty of studies.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The response from this process will be the starting point for the working group promised in Sustaining Progress which will be in place before the end of this year.

Officials of the Department of Social and Family Affairs are carrying out a review of the carer’s allowance and carer’s benefit schemes within the Department. The review will consider many of the issues and recommendations raised by the joint committee report which was referred to in the course of the debate. The review is nearing completion and its recommendations will be considered in the context of budget 2005.

The facts that I have set out clearly demonstrate how active the Government has been on many fronts in continuing to develop supports for carers. We are well aware that not everybody has been in a position to benefit from our thriving economy and we are determined to work hard for those who feel that they have been left behind. We are aware of the magnitude of the challenge involved in meeting the needs of vulnerable citizens and we look forward to facing that challenge and developing a society in which prosperity, inclusion and participation are a reality for all.

Mr. S. Ryan: Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  I wish to share time with Deputy Rabbitte.

I am pleased that, once again, the Labour Party has raised the role of carers in the House. I compliment Deputy Penrose and I hope the motion can be supported by the House. However, the Labour Party will continue, in one way or another inside or outside the House, whether it is in or out of Government, to pursue the needs of carers until they get due respect and acknowledgement.

Life expectancy has increased due to medical advances and there are now many more people with chronic illness and serious disability requiring care. Family carers in the home are expected to provide the bulk of care for the chronically ill, the disabled and dependent older persons. They are offered little support or practical help. It is important to outline the amount of caring being undertaken daily in this country. It is estimated that there are nearly 400,000 people with disabilities in Ireland. There are approximately 40,000 people with dementia, 5,000 with multiple sclerosis, 7,000 with Parkinson’s disease, between 20,000 and 30,000 adults with intellectual disabilities, at least 5,500 people who are wheelchair users and each year 3,000 people become dependent on constant care as a result of the effects of strokes. That is an indication of the reality of the work being done each day.

Until recently the carer’s role was largely defined by tradition, culture and religious factors incorporating ideas of self-sacrifice, duty and acceptance. Thankfully, this attitude has changed and carers are emerging as people who want to care for their loved ones but who are increasingly angry about the lack of recognition, services and support for them in their caring role in one of the richest countries in Europe. Despite the increased emphasis on the value and importance of community care, expenditure patterns in the health [1350]services do not reflect any noticeable shift towards community care services as opposed to hospital care.

There appears to be an erroneous perception that carers are always other people. We are all potential carers. Who is to say when or if we will experience the emotional, physical or financial effects of caring for a loved one struck down by accident, illness or the effects of old age? We must acknowledge that and deal with it. Entrenched social assumptions regarding the role of women and the perception that caring is an integral part of femininity can be seen in the failure in some areas to bury the official definition of the home help service as a good neighbourhood service. Sufficient funds must be allocated to enable the service to expand and attract workers by paying a reasonable wage. Workers in this service should receive adequate training for the job. The service should be greatly expanded in size, scope and function and should include emergency cover for the carer if he or she becomes ill, as well as a night and weekend service.

I wish to make a point which the Minister should take on board on behalf of the so-called caring Government. I was trying to get information from the various health boards over the past 18 months on the amount of money available and the cutbacks in the home help service. From the information provided to me, there was a reduction of over 300,000 home help hours in 2003 compared to the previous year. For the most needy people in this country, there was a reduction of over 300,000 home help hours. In further health board areas, clients were reviewed on the basis of need and clients’ contributions were increased and the hours available were limited so they could not plan. That is the reality.

The Minister will be judged on what he does for the most needy in society. I am a member of the committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Penrose which brought out this report on carers and carers’ needs. There was unanimous support in the committee for the report and it is up to the Minister to ensure it is implemented because the Labour Party, as it has in the past both inside and outside the House, intends to continue to further this issue to ensure the needs of those people who provide so much support to the most needy in this country are looked after as they should be.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I pay tribute to my colleague, Deputy Penrose, for bringing forward this motion and publishing a Bill which goes with it. I express my thanks to colleagues on all sides of the House for their support for the substance of the motion. It must be alternatively gratifying and infuriating for people who are carers to listen to this debate. They are bound to be gratified by the genuine sentiments expressed on both sides of the House for the role and contribution carers make to civilising our society and to supporting and caring for their loved ones, but they must be infuriated that the Government side, after all those fine words, has signalled it will vote against the motion. It is very difficult to reconcile that with the speeches made, and I do not question their bona fides. It [1351]is even more difficult to reconcile it with the new direction we are told this Government has taken.

The motion is no scatter-gun, off the top of the head effort by Deputy Penrose in the name of the Labour Party. Deputy Penrose has worked long and hard on this issue not only in his capacity as spokesperson for the Labour Party but in his capacity as chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs. Members on all sides, including on the Government benches, supported the elements of this motion. It is in the report of the committee. I do not understand how colleagues can support it in committee but when it comes into the House, take the opposite position.

I know €180 million is not an insignificant amount of money and that this is not the type of motion one would table every Private Members’ time but this is a special issue for the reasons Government Deputies have agreed and for the reasons the very vivid description Deputy Wall gave to the House of what it actually means for the people affected. After all, if we look at the burgeoning tax receipts we are enjoying again, how is this not a reasonable choice? At the end of the day, politics is about making choices. The Labour Party has made this choice and, as Deputy Sean Ryan said, we intend to stand by it.

The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, told us the priority of the Government is to consolidate the economic gains. To what purpose, or to what end? The economic boom is with us since 1993-94. We have had a decade of unprecedented growth. At what point do we stop being lectured to by the people who were fortunate to inherit that situation? At what point will they tell us what they are going to do with the fruits of that boom? They are saying that more than a decade later, the priority is to consolidate the economic growth and that they will think about this type of issue. This type of issue is the mark of a civilised society. When will they come into the House to say they are going to address this issue?

The motion before the House has attracted unusual attention not only because there is a growing public awareness of the importance of the role of carers in society but also because most people see it as a litmus test of the new direction we have been promised by this Government. We, on these benches, did not create that expectation. The Opposition is not responsible for the belief abroad that there is a new direction, a new departure and a new caring dimension to this Government that is so concerned to consolidate economic progress. The Taoiseach and several Ministers created it, as did the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, when he upbraided the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and the Progressive Democrats for foisting on Fianna Fáil an antagonistic philosophy with which it was not accustomed or familiar. I do not know why it took the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, seven and a half years to wake up at the Cabinet table one morning and to realise that for that period he was sharing it with people who were antagonistic to [1352]his beliefs. If he says they are his beliefs, I accept that but it was he, his Taoiseach, his Ministers and the jamboree at Inchydoney who conveyed it to the public, as it was intended, with Fr. Seán Healy in mufti or otherwise, the new, caring and sharing Fianna Fáil. This is its opportunity. I cannot think of a better litmus test. It has testified to the role of carers in society and this is the test.

Last night I listened to the Minister, Deputy Brennan, retrace his motivation for being in politics. I would not question his motivation and I accept entirely what he said. I do not recognise the self-portrait drawn by the Minister because I have always seen him as a neo-liberal in economic terms. It is a legitimate point of view with which I do not agree. I do not accept the reason he gave last night for not joining the Progressive Democrats at the time. The Progressive Democrats was not about ideology but was about being unable to live with the Haughey philosophy or ethos at the time. It adopted a hard right, neo-liberal political philosophy later to justify its existence. I do not believe the Minister, Deputy Brennan, has become a liberal in economic terms overnight but I acknowledge he has ability. The fact he did not want to be in this portfolio is not my responsibility — he had better clear that up with the Taoiseach — but now he is in it. He has never shown empathy with this particular constituency or these types of issues. However, he is an immensely experienced politician and an able Minister. I wish him well in his portfolio.

  9 o’clock

Here is the Minister’s chance to get his own back on the Taoiseach. Here is his chance to put his finger in the Taoiseach’s eye and say: “I am now going to do what you told the people at Inchydoney we would do and the Government will have to support it.” This is the test. It is a great opportunity for the Minister to do something significant, to implement the report encapsulated in this motion produced by Deputy Penrose and his colleagues, including the Minister’s colleagues, in the joint committee. Then the Taoiseach might think twice about putting the Minister into the Department of Social and Family Affairs the next time.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The House will hear Deputy Stagg.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Given the importance of this issue which affects tens of thousands of people and as a teller in the count, in accordance with Standing Orders I demand a vote by traditional methods.

Mr. Davern: Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  It is a pity Deputy Stagg did not have a say in the Labour Party when Deputy Michael D. Higgins was defeated by Labour.

(Interruptions).

Amendment again put.

[1353]The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 58.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin. Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus.
Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim. Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Smith, Michael.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael. Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.



[1353]Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Breen, James.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul.
Information on Tony Gregory  Zoom on Tony Gregory  Gregory, Tony. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul.
Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Seán Ryan  Zoom on Seán Ryan  Ryan, Seán.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

[1353]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

[1355]Amendment declared carried.


[1356]
Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

[1355]The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 48.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin. Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Brennan, Seamus.
Information on Joe Callanan  Zoom on Joe Callanan  Callanan, Joe. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John.
Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Cowen, Brian. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Davern  Zoom on Noel Davern  Davern, Noel. Information on Tony Dempsey  Zoom on Tony Dempsey  Dempsey, Tony.
Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Dennehy, John. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Dermot Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Jim Glennon  Zoom on Jim Glennon  Glennon, Jim.
Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire. Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Jacob, Joe.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Donal Moynihan  Zoom on Donal Moynihan  Moynihan, Donal.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael.
Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J. Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Dennis O'Donovan  Zoom on Dennis O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Denis. Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Tim O'Malley  Zoom on Tim O'Malley  O’Malley, Tim. Information on Tom Parlon  Zoom on Tom Parlon  Parlon, Tom.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Mae Sexton  Zoom on Mae Sexton  Sexton, Mae.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  Wallace, Dan. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
Information on Ollie Wilkinson  Zoom on Ollie Wilkinson  Wilkinson, Ollie. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.
Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  Wright, G. V.  


[1355]Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Breen, James.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Jerry Cowley  Zoom on Jerry Cowley  Cowley, Jerry. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Padraic.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Paul McGrath  Zoom on Paul McGrath  McGrath, Paul.
Information on Paddy McHugh  Zoom on Paddy McHugh  McHugh, Paddy. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Zoom on Breeda Moynihan-Cronin  Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda. Information on Gerard Murphy  Zoom on Gerard Murphy  Murphy, Gerard.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Pattison, Seamus.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  Sherlock, Joe. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

[1355]Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Durkan.

[1355]Question declared carried.


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