Disabled Limerick man’s personal assistant hours are cut to zero

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

A LIMERICKMAN who has saved the state tens of thousands of euros by moving from residential care to living on his own has had his personal assistant hours cut.

A LIMERICKMAN who has saved the state tens of thousands of euros by moving from residential care to living on his own has had his personal assistant hours cut.

Liam Conlan, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, has had his hours reduced from four hours a week to zero.

Liam lived with his mum and dad until they passed away.

“My sister became my primary carer. I wanted to take that role away from her - why should she forfeit her whole life for me? I went in to a residential unit funded by the HSE for those with physical and sensory disabilities.

“I thought I was doing the right thing with the aim of eventually integrating into my own place but I had to go out and find my own accommodation,” said Liam.

He spent three years in care until he found a suitable location in Dooradoyle.

“I moved-in in October and I was given four hours a week from a personal assistant. I could walk up to about 12 years ago. I have cerebral palsy, it is a life long disability and it has gone downhill,” said Liam.

The 36-year-old says the assistant helped him around the house – cleaning, meal preparation, tidying, budgeting and shopping.

“Then I got a letter in January informing me that my personal assistant service was being withdrawn. Nobody checked on me, I just got a letter in the post. They didn’t give me any reasons for my hours being cut,” said Liam.

The going rate for a personal assistant is €15 an hour. “The cost of where I was (residential care) would have been in the region of €95,000 to €110,000. I’m saving the state that much by going out on my own and they cut my helper hours. It doesn’t add up.

“I will fight tooth and nail to keep out of state care as long as I can but that thought does often loom at the back of my mind that I might have to go back again,” said Liam.

Since his hours have been reduced to zero he is finding it very hard as he has to pay for the hours out of his €196 a week allowance.

“I can afford maybe three hours a week and that’s pushing it. That would be having to sacrifice something else. I can’t live without a personal assistant. It is impractical.

“The people who are making these decision a lot of them don’t have disabilities. They don’t know what it is like to live in a wheelchair. That’s your life and they can pull the plug on €60 a week. They haven’t any idea about living with a disability. I have been compromised in so many ways.

“I have nothing to hide. I just think at the end of the day - €60 a week, is my life worth that? Is the money that critical to them?” said Liam, who worked most of his life until his disability disimproved.

He knows many other like him who have had their hours cut or phased out.

“It is compromising the quality of life for people who are living with a disability,” said Liam.

The HSE had not commented at the time of going to press.