23rd October 2012
IMPACT and other unions representing Donegal home helps held a march and rally last Friday (19th) to protest against cuts to services in the region. Service users from Donegal were among the speakers at the Letterkenny event, which was attended by more about 300 supporters.
The march and rally was organised by IMPACT, Siptu and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. IMPACT’s Richy Carrothers said cuts to services in Donegal amounted to 1,500 hours a week, or over 25,000 hours by the end of 2012.
“This punches a hole in the services to older people and people with disabilities in every community in Donegal. Losing these vital hours of service will affect the most socially isolated people in our communities. In a large rural county like Donegal, with poor public transport, the home help is a vital human link for people who are alone and in need of assistance.
“Losing these hours will also put a greater strain on the acute hospital services, most likely at greater cost. In that sense, these measures are a false economy,” he said.
The rally included an impromptu soup kitchen to reflect what Richy called the ‘Dickensian’ nature of the cuts. Martha Peoples, an 85-year-old service user from Churchill, told protesters her home help hours were being cut from five to 1.5 hours a week. She said she cries when her home help leaves because it will be a week before she’ll see her again.
In August the HSE announced a 5.5% cut in national home help hours to save almost €11 million.
Richy explained that the rally was to show support and solidarity with those who needed the home help service. “We want to develop a county-wide response in the coming weeks. December’s budget is likely to bring more bad news. We need to make the case for protecting vital services, which are ultimately more cost effective than the acute services that will be forced to fill the vacuum when these hours are lost,” he said.