herald

Thursday 31 July 2014

Burton refuses to back down on respite grant cut

JOAN Burton today ruled out the possibility of reversing the highly controversial measure to slash the respite grant for carers.

The Social Protection Minister said that while she "regrets" cuts to social benefits, the Government has "made its decision in relation to the Budget".

Her comments come following a day of public and political outrage over plans to slash the respite grant by €325. The cut represents a staggering 20pc of the overall annual payment and will impact over 70,000 families. It will only save around €26m for the Government out of a slash and burn budget of €3.5bn.



betrAYED

Yesterday we revealed how Clondalkin woman Amy Cunningham (26) feels betrayed by Michael Noonan's savage budget.

The mum, who cares for her terminally ill daughter Ellie, will lose over €100 a month thanks to the cuts.

Fine Gael and Labour TDs, including a junior minister, have suggested that measures in the Budget could be changed in the coming weeks.

However Ms Burton said that there is no hope of a U-turn, adding: "The government has made a budget and the government has made a decision to protect the weekly payment. I have got the actual cuts in social welfare down from €540m to €390m, I can't get any further.

"The Taoiseach spoke last night when he said that the budget has been made. And we have done a budget that keeps the weekly rates of payment that people get but we have had to reduce other payments. That's regrettable but we've had to do it."

Junior finance minister Brian Hayes had appeared to open the possibility of amendments, adding that if the government "got something wrong" it could be changed.

"I recognise that that is quite a drastic cut for people who are dependent on respite," he said.

"I mean if the government has got something wrong -- as we did last year -- we'll amend it. I'm also certain that in this case that amendment can happen, but let's wait and see."

However the Herald understands that Finance Ministers, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, have been strongly resisting calls to change parts of Budget 2013.

"All measures were negotiated and decided upon. You cannot start picking and choosing things to row back on," a government source said today.

More than 100 carers were due to demonstrate against the cuts outside the Dáil at 12pm today.

The Carers Association said the cut would cause huge problems for its members and their families.

Spokeswoman Catherine Cox said: "Despite working seven days a week, 365 days a year, carers are entitled to no holidays and no breaks."

hnews@herald.ie

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