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Agencies warn Government on budget cuts

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

by ALISON HEALY FIVE AGENCIES representing people with intellectual disabilities have warned the Government that the funding situation for the sector is “already dire” and they have cautioned against further budget cuts. In another development, the Carers’ Association said that if carers were not adequately supported in the budget it would be forced to hand over its caring work to the State. In their pre-budget submission, Inclusion Ireland, the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies, the National Parents and Siblings Alliance, Irish Autism Action and Down Syndrome Ireland urged that people with intellectual disabilities must not bear the brunt of budget cuts. They have called for an end to “cuts by stealth” in intellectual disability services and the honouring of previous commitments to the sector. They have also asked the Department of Health to review funding arrangements for services for people with an intellectual disability and have suggested the introduction of home care packages, similar to the packages available for older people. In its pre-budget submission, the Carers’ Association warned that family carers who depended on the carers’ allowance were living EUR4.50 below the poverty line. If further cuts were made, some of these people would have to give up their caring work. “As well as significantly increasing the financial burden of care on the State, this will also have serious longterm implications for the continuation of care provision in the home for people with disabilities and an increasing older population,” the submission said. Carers’ Association chief executive Enda Egan said that the most cost-effective option for the State was to support the work of family carers in the home as opposed to the State providing full-time institutional care. The Carers’ Association has called for an increase in the carers’ allowance and an increase in the amount of hours that carers are allowed to work outside the home while still being eligible for the payment. Dublin TD, Finian McGrath, said yesterday he will not vote for the Budget if there are cuts in disability, cystic fibrosis or health services generally. The Government currently has a majority of 12 and even if Mr McGrath voted against it, it would go down to 10. The Irish Cancer Society has called for a EUR2 increase in the price of cigarettes in its prebudget submission. It said that the price increase would provide an immediate revenue boost to the State as well as major long-term savings in healthcare. The submission said there was strong evidence to show that increasing the price of cigarettes encouraged smokers to stop and deterred young people from starting. The average price of a packet of 20 cigarettes is now EUR7.40, with EUR4.51 of this going to the State in duty and VAT charges.” Tobacco sales generate EUR1.19 billion a year for the exchequer. However, if the EUR2 price hike was introduced, some EUR320 million more would be generated for the State. “The current cost of cigarettes is not a prohibiting factor for young people and the Irish Government is missing the opportunity to enact to the full a powerful public health intervention,” the submission said. It pointed to findings from the World Bank that a high price was the single most effective intervention to prevent smoking. “This is especially so for young people and others on low incomes.” The submission pointed to other research which showed that when prices increased by 10 per cent total consumption of cigarettes decreased by 4 per cent. Despite the introduction of the workplace smoking ban, the number of people smoking rose from 27 to 29 per cent between 2002 and 2007. Young adults are most likely to smoke as well as those in low-income groups. The Irish Cancer Society said smoking costs the economy between EUR1 million and EUR5 million per day in lost productivity. “At a very conservative estimate, a minimum of EUR1 billion of public money per year is spent on managing the health effects of smoking.” The submission also called for the ringfencing of tobacco revenue for tobacco control.

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