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'An attack on the most vulnerable': HSE introduces fees for transport to disability day services

One family told their local MEP they were facing a €2,000 annual bill.
Apr 23rd 2019, 6:00 AM 48,167 42

ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES are now being charged fees to use rural transport schemes to get to HSE day services.

The issue was first raised by Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth in the Dáil last month, when she highlighted that services users attending Drumlin House in Cootehill Co Cavan were “stunned” to receive a letter from the HSE informing them that their transport service which is provided with the Local Link would now cost €4 daily return.

“That’s a total charge of €960 per annum for a person with a disability,” she said. The travel pass is not accepted on these private services.

“If they can’t afford it – and they most likely can’t afford it – they will be left at home,” Smyth said.

This week Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said a number of affected families in Cavan and Monaghan had also contacted him about the fees, which were implemented from 1 April.

He said those in receipt of disability allowance, and who are solely reliant on the service will be particularly hard hit, calling it “a further attack on the most vulnerable in society”.

Of the many HSE Centres affected in my own constituency, Cranog Resource Centre in Castleblayney is one. The majority of users here receive fixed weekly allowances, such as Disability Allowance, where €4.00 a day represents a significant amount of money out of their weekly budget, especially for those attending a centre on multiple days.

Carthy called on the government to arrange for service users to use their travel passes on these journeys.

“There is a genuine fear now in families that their loved ones may not be able to avail of services simply because of the cost. I am aware that in the case of one family, the cost annually would be €2,000,” he said.

The HSE told TheJournal.ie that this issue impacts on service users in five counties – Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo – that make up Community Health Care Organisation Area 1, or CHO1. 

It said the recent change was due to increasing transport costs. 

“The provision of transport for clients accessing HSE Day Services across Older Persons, Disability and Mental Health Services is a particular challenge across the five counties where public transport is limited.

The HSE does not have a statutory requirement to provide transport, however it is recognised that many people could not access services without HSE support.

The HSE said it currently contributes 90% of the total transport operating costs to enable clients to access day services across CHO1, with the remainder being paid by passengers.

“Due to increasing transport costs and to enable the continued delivery of these essential services it is necessary to introduce a standard €4 daily charge for all CHO 1 service users from 1 April 2019.

This charge will contribute to overall improvements in service delivery including increased number of routes, shorter journey times and improvement in overall quality of vehicles used.

The HSE said maximum cost to any individual is €20 per week, and “only then on the basis that they access the day services, every day of the year that the service is operating”.

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Michelle Hennessy

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