Harney u-turn on disability care payments

At her final press briefing as Minister for Health in the last government, before the 21 May election, Mary Harney announced a u-turn on a recently introduced policy to charge 8,500 people with disabilities living in long term care between 50-70 per cent of their income for their care.


She said people with disabilities living in care “should not be charged that amount, that making a small contribution to shelter and maintenance was reasonable, but they should be left with a reasonable amount to live on”. Mary Harney also said she did “not believe there should be any question of back money”.

However, in the last two months, families of people with disabilities living in the HSE Western region have been notified by letter of owing €5,000 for the retrospective payment of care back to July 2005. They have also been made aware of a charge of €120 per week, which will be deducted from their weekly income. Most of the 8,500 people with disabilities living in care are eligible for these charges.

One letter from a care provider to the family of a person with disabilities seen by the Village states that “the legislative framework and basis for determining the charges on each individual are outlined in the Long Stay Charges National Guidelines issued by the HSE in August 2005… This centre is required to implement charges with retrospection to 14 July 2005…. We are legally required to levy a weekly charge of €120 or the total weekly income of that person less €35 whichever is less.”

Mary Harney said she was unaware of HSE guidelines in relation to retrospective payments.

This new HSE policy came about as a result of the Health (Charge for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 which legalised charging people in long stay care for their care. It was introduced after the Supreme Court ruling that charging older people with medical cards in long stay care for their care was illegal. As the act applies to any care facility where nursing is provided, people with disabilities are being charged for their care.

Most people with disabilities living in care are in receipt of €185.50 disability allowance. This is usually their only form of income. Government policy supports people with disabilities to live ‘independently'.Inclusion Ireland, an advocacy organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, says: “people with disabilities should contribute to the costs of their service, as this is in line with the independent living model, but taking over 70 per cent of their income is wrong”. It suggests a 30 per cent contribution would be reasonable.