The Dáil Technical Group including South Tipperary Deputy Seamus Healy is this week demanding justice and fairness for people with disabilities.
There will be a 3 hour debate on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week on the following motion:
“That Dáil Éireann: notes the grave injustice that is the current assessment, review and appeals system for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) which has, since its transfer to the Department of Social Protection in 2009, seen: - a continuous escalation in application refusals based on desk assessments carried out by administrators and medical assessors neither of which are required to be qualified specialists in the relevant area of disability; - an upsurge in reviews of DCA recipient eligibility which often result in extortionate costs to parents who must, at short notice, obtain expert medical evidence to support the defence of their much needed claim (evidence for which they are often forced to pay private sector experts given the unavailability of public sector options within the short timeframes set out by the Department of Social Protection for such reviews); - the development of a staggering 38 week wait period for those seeking an oral appeal of an unsuccessful application or a finding of ineligibility upon review;
- a situation arise whereby 2,420 applicants and recipients subject to review appealed the Department’s negative decision in their case during 2011 alone, 52% of which were successful in their appeal; - the unnecessary imposition of an additional emotional burden upon families as a result of being forced to embark upon a lengthy and costly appeal process which, in 52% of cases, upholds the original claim for DCA and proves the injustice of the initial refusal; - a persistent failure to inform families of the specific reasons a child does not qualify for DCA, thereby preventing parents from appealing a decision on specific grounds rather than causing a lengthy and costly review of the entire process; and - the placing of formal or informal restrictions upon Health Service Executive (HSE) experts precluding them from recommending the provision of a DCA to an individual on the basis of a diagnosis they have made; deplores: - the emergence of a backdoor approach to denying additional supports such as Carer’s Allowance, the Respite Care Grant, the Household Benefits Package and sibling supports as a result of a finding of ineligibility for DCA; and - the apparent development of a cynical policy to routinely refuse DCA applications and categorise recipients ineligible in the short-sighted hope of making savings – adding greatly to the anxiety and hardship endured by some of the most marginalised and vulnerable families in the State; and calls on the Government to immediately reform the DCA system by: - returning the administration of this system to the Department of Health;
- insisting that medical assessors are competent to assess the medical information submitted and are on the relevant specialist medical register (e.g. paediatrics or child psychiatry), remove the ‘Guide to the Normal Age of Attainment of Certain Activities’ currently in use by medical assessors (as compiled by the Office for Population Censuses and Surveys study on Disability in Childhood in the United Kingdom) and ensure that all decisions on DCA applications and existing claims are made by child protection or disability social workers; - providing DCA applicants and recipients with access to all documentation held in relation to their claim upon request and within a reasonable timeframe; - affording recipients sufficient notice of an upcoming review in order that they may obtain the requisite expert evidence through public sector sources as should be provided for through the ‘Assessment of Needs’ procedure under the Disability Act 2005; - revoking any and all restrictions placed upon HSE experts precluding them from recommending that individuals and/or families require specific supports such as the DCA; - limiting to 7 weeks at most (the Department’s target time for the processing of DCA applications) the total time it takes to hear and adjudicate over summary and oral appeals on DCA; - publishing the general details of decisions on social welfare appeals (while ensuring the anonymity of those concerned) in satisfaction of the Article 34.1 constitutional guarantee that justice ‘shall be administered in public’ in view of the quasi-judicial status of such appeals; - introducing a truly streamlined and human rights focused DCA system which is administered in the understanding of the uphill struggle that is everyday life for those seeking DCA and does not actively exhaust the precious time and resources at their disposal in lengthy application, review and appeals processes; and - prioritising the delivery of all necessary resources, supports and funds to children with special needs in order to facilitate them in attaining their full potential as equal citizens of Ireland.”