Family carer Lisamarie Hodgins-McMasters is hoping she and 500,000 other carers in Ireland will not be left behind in tomorrow’s household.
The 40-year-old mother of three from Dundalk, Co. Louth provides 24-hour care for her two young daughters, both of whom have special needs, and their five-year-old son Rian.
Their nine-year-old daughter, KeelieRose, has autism and dyspraxia, while 13-year-old Séanadh was born with a rare genetic condition called Chromosome 3P Syndrome.
Her condition, which only affects a handful of children in Ireland, means she must use a wheelchair and has a complex range of needs.
Séanadh is deaf in one ear, has poor eyesight and poor muscle tone, and is very light in weight, although she has a strong appetite.
While her health card covers the cost of medication and prescriptions, simply feeding Séanadh is taking a huge toll on the family budget as food costs continue to rise.
“She’s literally not full,” Lisamarie said of her daughter’s insatiable appetite.
“I couldn’t eat as much as you – in two seconds the food will be gone.”
Before the livelihood crisis, she was spending around €80 a week to feed her children and husband David McMasters, 38.
But now she’s more than doubling, with weekly food bills now hitting the €200 mark.
She also feels the pinching of the pumps. Although Séanadh takes the bus to school, she has to drive KeelieRose to school, a 20-minute drive each way. She also drives the girls to yoga and swimming classes twice a week, in addition to the outpatient appointments she has to drive to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda every two months.
The cost of petrol and diesel alone now costs them around 70 euros a week.
And like many families, she is terrified every time an electricity and gas bill comes in the mailbox.
They now pay around €50 a week for gas and up to €40 a week for electricity and fear the bills will only get higher.
“We’re afraid to open the bills,” she said.
And while her husband works full-time as a private bus driver and earns around 650 euros per week, subject to means conditions that entitle her to 333 euros in care allowance per week, her husband is not allowed to earn more than 750 euros per week.
As a result, he cannot work over time even though there is enough work for him. And there is no talk of so-called luxury – such as ergotherapy for the girls, which costs around 120 euros per session.
As a result, they live hand to mouth each week with no end in sight.
What would make a difference in the household would be removing the means test on her spouse’s income — or at least raising it to a level where her husband can make more money to support his family, she said.
And while she welcomes the promised household living payments, it won’t make much of a difference to her spending unless means testing is scrapped, she said. “Throwing crumbs at us isn’t going to make much of a difference with everything that’s skyrocketed,” she said.
“It’s very frustrating. The majority of us (carers) work 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.
However, if she takes into account the amount of work she puts into caring for her daughters every day, her care allowance amounts to just 1.32 euros per hour.
https://www.independent.ie/business/budget/were-afraid-to-open-the-bills-throwing-crumbs-at-us-wont-make-a-difference-carer-on-132-per-hour-calls-for-means-test-to-be-abolished-42017881.html Budget 2023 Ireland: ‘€1.32 an hour’ carer calls for abolition of means test – ‘We’re afraid to open the bills; Throwing crumbs at us won’t make a difference