A NORTHSIDE mother of two children with special needs has told how she will be pushed over the edge financially if family carers are targeted in the upcoming budget.
Antoinette Norris, from Finglas, cares for her autistic son Adam (6) and her 15-year-old daughter Demi, who is non-verbal and has suspected Cohen’s Syndrome.
She is assisted by her other daughter Amanda and her son Sam, both of whom were presented with a Young Carers of the Year Award earlier this year.
The family recently featured in the ‘Secret Millionaire’ TV series after hi-tech entrepreneur Jim Breen read about their plight in Northside People.
Frustrated mum Antoinette fears that further cuts to household benefit packages, free travel for carers and services for people with disabilities will make it difficult for them to survive.
The potential cuts are set against a backdrop of suspension of housing adaptation grants and increases in the costs of care in the home.
“I’m only just getting back on my feet from the cuts announced in the last budget,” Antoinette revealed.
“I don’t drink. I’ve been out three nights this year which gives you some idea how every penny that comes into this house is needed to keep it running.
“My daughter [Demi] has a tendency to steal food from me. For example, last night she opened five cheese-strings, a full carton of yoghurt and mixed them into a full slice pan. That’s all food that was to be used for lunches but then needed to be re-bought.
“Another day she got up before me and went into the kitchen where she threw the contents of two bags of cereal, 24 eggs and milk onto the floor.”
She added: “It’s a complete mad house here most of the time. If you didn’t have a sense of humor you’d crack up. The last thing I need is more money worries.”
Antoinette explained how she is currently using a ‘treat system’ to teach and encourage Demi and Adam how to behave. Demi, who only became toilet trained four years ago, is rewarded with a treat if she uses the bathroom when needed.
“These treats of a packet of Smarties may not seem like an expense to most parents but for me the cost certainly racks up,” she explained.
Antoinette has invited any Government minister to walk in her shoes for a week before they make a decision on cuts for carers.
“I can assure you they wouldn’t dare cut any more money from us when they realise the work we do,” she said.
Last week, the Carers’ Association launched its Pre-Budget Submission 2013 calling on the Government to put its own policy of caring for people in their own homes into practice.
“The National Carers’ Strategy, published earlier this year, promised to recognise, empower and support family carers,” said Catherine Cox, spokesperson for the Carers’ Association.
“Yet Ireland’s 187,000 family carers are now facing cuts to home help hours, home care packages and vital support services.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they would not comment on any speculation in relation to cuts prior to the budget.