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Medical cards on the way for thousands of children who have a severe disability

Children with a severe disability who receive the Domiciliary Care Allowance will qualify for the card, once legislation is passed.

Minister Simon Harris
Minister Simon Harris
Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT WILL begin taking steps to ensure that 11,000 children under 16 who receive the Domiciliary Care Allowance because of a severe disability will be automatically entitled to a medical card.

A motion from Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly calling for the automatic provision of medical cards for very sick children who are in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) was unanimously passed in the Dáil last night.

The DCA is a monthly payment for a child under 16 who has a severe disability and “who requires ongoing care and attention, substantially over and above the care and attention usually required by a child of the same age”. The allowance isn’t means tested.

The child must live at home with the person claiming the allowance for five or more days a week, and meet certain medical criteria.

The Health Act will have to be amended to be bring in the change.

The Our Children’s Health Campaign members were in the public gallery last night as the motion was passed. In a statement, they said:

We would like to thank Deputy O’Reilly for raising the motion and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris for readily accepting and supporting the motion. Having seen many false dawns and worked hard to build consensus on this issue in Leinster House, it was hugely encouraging to see that virtually all TDs, parties and independents, now support this vital change.

They pointed out that 33,000 children qualify for the DCA according to the latest figures.

Once enacted; 11,000 of these children, ruled ineligible under our current system, will qualify for a Medical Card immediately. Crucially any child that is born with or develops a serious illness or condition in the future will in effect be automatically entitled to a Medical Card. The means test that has ensured that so many do not qualify, will be no more for these children and their parents.

The campaigner said that “it seems the only issue now is how quickly this can happen. ”

While we accept that the €20m required needs to go through the estimates and budgetary process, there is no reason whatsoever that the legislation to amend the 1970 Health Act cannot be enacted before Budget Day, to take effect immediately after.

Over 65,000 people have signed the campaign’s petition on the issue.

“These children and their parents have waited long enough – we have waited long enough,” said the campaigners.

In response to the news, Deputy O’Reilly said she welcomed the strong support for the motion across the chamber.

She said that it cannot wait until 2017, and that Minister Harris is not prohibited from publishing the legislation before the Dáil recess.

She said that as the commitment has been made and the move will be a budget priority for 2017, the Minister “must publish legislation to give effect to this to ensure that the practices and procedures are in place once the budget has been finalised”.

There can be no excuses, no hesitation, no long-fingering. We need to give these families certainty and we need to give these children the best quality of health possible.

In his speech to the Dáil, Harris said that he was “genuinely excited that the new Dáil has come together with the aim of achieving a long-term consensus on the fundamental principles of health policy”.

He also said that no Dáil motion was necessary to convince him to bring in the change, and that he was convinced by the parents he met in the gallery last night, as well as many other parents he has met.

He added: “I am very hopeful that I would be able to get cross-party support for legislation that would give effect to this measure. This would allow for it to pass quickly through the House so as to bring the benefits to these children and their families in the not too distant future. I hope that not having to worry about applying for a medical card will help these 30,000 families in some small way.”

Read: Over 39,000 new medical card applications refused in last twelve months>

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