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Monday 5 December 2016

'Scrap welfare system that left stab victim out in the cold', says O'Dea

Rose Kenny is living in fear after a brutal knife attack
Rose Kenny is living in fear after a brutal knife attack

The entire social welfare system is riddled with anomalies, is overly bureaucratic and should be scrapped and started again from scratch, Fianna Fail Social Protection spokesman Willie O'Dea has said.

He was speaking after a Dublin grandmother, who was stabbed and left for dead outside her flat, told how she cannot access the winter fuel allowance while on illness benefit as she cannot work because of her injuries.

Rose Kenny (51) has appealed to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to re-evaluate the social welfare system.

She has been told that if she went on Jobseeker's Allowance she would be entitled to the payment.

Simplified

Mr O'Dea has backed Ms Kenny's appeal and said the entire system needs to be simplified.

"The current system is riddled with anomalies and is hugely bureaucratic. It urgently needs to be simplified and re-cast," he said.

"It is full of traps and rules that discourage people from working, and this case is another obvious one that shows up its shortcomings.

"Rose seems to be entitled to illness benefit because she had been working in the past and paying social insurance stamps, but this does not entitle her to a fuel allowance.

"If she hadn't been working in the past, paid no stamps and claimed disability allowance, she would get the same amount as she would on illness benefit, plus the fuel allowance as well.

"She is being punished for working in the past. Sometimes a government tries to solve anomalies by making changes here and there, but that often creates anomalies elsewhere.

"It's like adding extensions and corridors to an old house to such an extent that it becomes a maze, when the right thing to do would be to knock the lot down and build something modern and fit for purpose."

Ms Kenny cannot work because of the injuries she received in the brutal stabbing at the hands of her former partner, Denis Leahy.

He was handed a 14-year prison sentence in July after he pleaded guilty to attempted murder as Ms Kenny left the School Street Flats near Thomas Street on September 23, 2014.

She was stabbed 22 times and suffered injuries to her throat and neck that left her fighting for her life.

She spent seven weeks in St James's Hospital and now struggles to talk because of the damage that was done.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection said that where a person is receiving a short-term payment such as illness benefit and their circumstances are such that they need assistance with heating costs, they should contact their local social welfare Intreo office.

"Depending on the individual circumstances, they may receive assistance under the department's supplementary welfare allowance scheme," the spokeswoman added.

Ms Kenny used to work in the creche at her local family resource centre.

Breath

"I loved my job, but when you're looking after children you often have to talk loudly and you're answering the intercom to the parents of 50 children coming to collect them in the afternoon," she said.

"I did go back for a while after I was physically recovered, but it got to the stage that at the end of the day I'd be fighting for my breath. I have to fight for every word I speak. I just couldn't do it any more."

Apart from the horrendous physical injuries she suffered in the attack, she also lives daily with the psychological damage that she fears will never go away.

"I hate going outside. I'm always looking for danger. I have to psych myself up to leave the flat and when I'm out all I want to do is get home as quick as I can," she said.

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