by Mary de Paor


30 September 2000
The sixth NAMHI Parents’ Seminar, ‘Wills and entitlements’, held in Tullamore on 30 October 2000, was opened by Brian Cowen, now Minister for External Affairs, who said he considered the development of a structured response to learning disability health needs to be his most favoured legacy from his time in office in the Department of Health and Children. He signalled the importance of partnership in planning service development of public authorities, service providers and parents, in the ‘shared ownership’ of problems and solutions. He welcomed the fact that health is for the first time involved in the present National Development Plan.

The morning session of the seminar focused on social welfare entitlements. Mícheál Ó Ceallaigh of the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs spoke about the Carer’s Allowance which is currently available to approximately 16,000 recipients. He emphasised that the allowance has been established as an income support (hence it is means-tested), not as a payment for caring. He gave full details of the extent and limitations of the allowance. Sadie Tate, parent/carer and widow, stated that carers should be recognised by the state for giving their time and their life to caring for family members. Her demand was that those receiving the Carer’s Allowance should not be precluded from also receiving a widow/widower’s benefit–a demand echoed by the entire seminar audience.

Social analyst Ita Mangan, who is Legal Social Policy Adviser with Comhairle, argued for an entitlement to payment for all carers–even if that payment might start out at a low rate–and for the establishment of a cost-of-disability payment.

Solicitor John Costello spoke about wills, discretionary trusts and inheritance tax. Later the panel of speakers answered questions in an open forum discussion. At the close of the seminar, a resolution was passed to send a deputation to the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs to demand the abolition of the means test for the Carer’s Allowance.