30.11.2012 Call to Protect Supports to People with Neurological Conditions in 2013

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The Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI) is calling on the government to protect services and supports to people with disabilities in next week's budget. The umbrella group represents over 30 not for profit organisations, working with people with conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimers disease, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injury and Parkinsons disease. Over 700,000 people in Ireland are living with a neurological condition, many of which have a chronic disabling impact on their lives.

The NAI has contacted all TD's in advance of next week's budget to highlight the impact of the Government's economic measures to date on those with neurological disabilities and the hardship that will be caused by any further cuts.

Effects of cutbacks on people with a neurological disability

Five sucessive years of cutbacks have affected key supports for people with a neurological disability. Just some examples of the wide range of cuts that have been imposed include cuts in disability welfare payments and housing adaptation grants, reduced income threshold for the drug payments scheme and the introduction of prescription charges (which there is a proposal to increase in next week's budget). Cuts to home care supports continue to impact significantly on people with neurological conditions.

In addition, people with a neurological disability face significant increases in the cost of living due to the introduction of a range of charges and levies including the universal social charge and the proposed property tax.

The Neurological Alliance of Ireland first national survey of carers of people with a neurological condition earlier this year found that over one third reported a significant impact of government cutbacks on their ability to care for a person with a neurological condition.

"We have to pay privately for the therapies (physiotherapy, speech and language therapy) he needs, with cuts in child benefit and more and more charges, how can we do that"? (Family carer)

Chris Macey, Chair of NAI notes "I'm not sure if Government realise just how vulnerable people with a neurological disability are. They are critically dependent on the support provided by not for profit organisations. Ireland's neurological care services are drastically underdeveloped. Recent figures from the HSE showed over 5000 people waiting for over a year to see a neurologist. The message has to be clear, once they get a diagnosis, there is very little available to them and what is available is being steadily undermined.

Cutting funding for not for profit organisations has a disproportionate impact on people with neurological conditions

Not for profit organisations which provide specialist services and support to people with neurological conditions have sustained funding cuts of up to 14% in recent years. These organisations are often the only source of support available. Groups have forced to cut back on essential services such as respite, home care support and helpline hours as a result of cutbacks. Fundraising by charities has been significantly impacted by the recession. A survey by the Disability Federation of Ireland showed that half of disability organisations had suffered a 17% drop in their fundraised income.

NAI's call to protect supports for people with neurological conditions in Budget 2013

The NAI have called for the following decisions in next week's budget:

1. A halt in reductions in the basic standard of living of people with disabilities requring welfare supports. People with disabilities are most likely to experience real poverty because on top of the recent cuts in benefit levels and new charges, they also have to continue to pay for extras required due to their disability.

2. Ensure funding for the services needed by people with disabilities. Cutting the services required by people with disabilities not only undermines their lives, it also leads to a growing public burden in terms hospital stays and expensive care costs. In terms of neurological disability, most of these services and supports are provided by not for profit organisations who are struggling to maintain services. In the words of one individual "Without my charity, I have no service".


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