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File photo of Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.
File photo of Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Ombudsman: Department of Health is disregarding the law

Emily O’Reilly was speaking about the department’s decision not to remove age limits on allowances for people with severe disability.
Dec 7th 2012, 2:46 PM 5,052 19

OMBUDSMAN EMILY O’REILLY has said the Department of Health has a long history of “carelessness about the law”, following the decision to reject recommendations she made about the Mobility Allowance scheme.

In October this year, O’Reilly published a report that said placing an upper age limit on the payment of an allowance to people with severe disability is “illegal”.

At the time Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the government was seeking legal advice on the matter. Although the Department of Health accepted its operation of the scheme breaches the Equal Status Acts, the government said it could not afford to implement O’Reilly’s recommendations to abolish the age limit.

Speaking to an Oireachtas Committee yesterday, O’Reilly said the department is now in its twelfth year of failure to abide by the Equal Status Act.

The Ombudsman said the department has a long history of “carelessness about the law” which has been the case “irrespective of which political party or coalition have been in government”.

To date, about €500 million has been paid our by the government following High Court action around charging medical card holders for long-stay care.

O’Reilly also said more than 300 individuals have begun High Court proceedings against the HSE, the department and the State seeking compensation for the private nursing home costs incurred.

“It seems clear to me that the department is involved in a careful strategy of risk management,” she said.

“What I am pointing out is that the Department of Health – because of what appears to be a culture of prevarication, disregard for the law and an inability to take hard decisions – has already caused the State to incur enormous costs and looks set to continue on that path,” she added.

Related: Government “considering legal advice” over mobility allowance>

Read: Information Commissioner welcomes Freedom of Information reform>

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Michelle Hennessy


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