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Sinn Féin publish Disability Allowance amendment to extend payment following death of a child

It comes after a carer received a letter seeking repayment of the allowance due to it being claimed after her disabled son died.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

SINN FÉIN’S SPOKESPERSON for Social Protection has described Minister Heather Humphrey’s response to her proposed amendment to Disability Allowance legislation as “deeply disappointing”.

Claire Kerrane put forward the amendment to extend the payment of Disability Allowance for three months following the death of a child, in line with Domiciliary Care Allowance.

It was drafted after a carer received a letter seeking repayment of €208 in Disability Allowance due to it being claimed in the week where her disabled son died.

Tracy McGinnis, whose son Brendan Bjorn McGinnis passed away on 17 May aged 17, was sent a letter by the Department of Social Protection seeking repayment of €208 in Disability Allowance.

In Ireland, if a child under the age of 16 who is cared for in their family home dies, Carer’s Allowance and Domiciliary Care Allowance are paid for another 12 weeks or three months.

However, when a child turns 16, they are entitled to Disability Allowance that is paid to their name, rather than the Domiciliary Care Allowance that is provided in the case of younger children.

If the child dies aged 16 or over, Carer’s Allowance is paid for another 12 weeks but all other payments stop immediately.

Humphreys has since said the payment will not have to be made and apologised to Tracy, saying  it “shouldn’t have happened”. 

In an exchange in the Dáil this morning, the Minister agreed to review the processes around Disability Allowance, but did not agree to implement the amendment. 

Speaking today, Kerrane said the reply is “just not good enough” and “skirts around the issue, rather than just addressing it”. 

“While she acknowledged the situation that Tracy experienced, she would not acknowledge that there is an anomaly in existing legislation,” she said.

‘Cliff-edge’

She said Tracy’s experience has exposed “the cliff-edge” that exists, where on the death of a child in receipt of disability allowance, the payment ceases immediately. 

“This is not the case for younger children under 16 years of age and in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance, nor is it the case where the deceased recipient of Disability Allowance is a partner or spouse in which case the payment continues for six weeks.

“So not only are there discrepancies around the continuation of supports depending on the age of the child, there are also differences depending on relationship.

Why would we treat the death of a fifteen year old with a disability and a sixteen year old with a disability differently? Why would we allow the continuation of Disability Allowance following the death for a husband or partner but not for a son or daughter? This makes no sense.

“There is no rational reason for this and the gap in legislation must be addressed to rectify this unfair anomaly immediately.

Kerrane said the Minister has committed to a review of the processes, but said this will delay the action needed to address the issue.

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“Rather than review, the Minister should implement the necessary amendment which I have already drafted and sent to her,” she said.

“The Minister said in her reply to me that her Department ‘recognises the need for a transition period during which people can grieve and plan for a life following the death of a family member’ yet this was not afforded to Tracy McGinnis and it will not be in future, unless this amendment is made.”

Tracy has also called for social welfare supports to continue upon the death of a disabled child aged 16 or older being cared for in the family home in the same way as for those under 16.

Speaking to The Journal, Care Alliance Ireland’s Senior Policy & Research Officer Zoe Hughes said it would be “very difficult” to argue against the idea of extending the period that allowances continue to be paid.

“The argument can be made that well, if a person has passed away, then that money should pass away with them, but I don’t necessarily think in this particular case and in similar cases that’s really that accurate, because there are going to be costs that will keep going even after the person has passed away by the nature of the significant medical costs,” she said.

“That doesn’t immediately end straight away. There are continued costs that will keep going after somebody passes away.”

With reporting from Lauren Boland.

About the author:

Jane Moore

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