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 has 24-hour care for her two young daughters, who both have special needs, and their son Rian, 5.
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 is confined to a wheelchair and has a complex set of needs. She is deaf in one ear, has poor eyesight and poor muscle tone, and a very low body weight, although she is constantly hungry.
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 skyrocket.
“She’s literally not full,” Lisamarie said of her daughter’s insatiable appetite.”
“I couldn’t eat as much as they did — in two seconds the food is gone,” she said.
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 David works full-time as a private bus driver – earns around 650 euros a week – and she is entitled to 333 euros in care allowance per week due to the means test, her husband is not allowed to earn more than 750 euros per week.
As a result, he cannot work overtime, although there is enough work for him. And so-called luxury – such as occupational therapy for the girls, which costs around 120 euros per session – is out of the question. As a result, they live hand to mouth each week with no end in sight.
“We’re not going out. We don’t drink, we don’t do anything,” she said. “They’re literally living from week to week,” she said, adding that when they manage to put savings aside, they eat up on other expenses like car insurance or Christmas gifts.
What would make a difference in the coming 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. You’re always on call,’ she said.
However, if she takes into account the daily work she puts into looking after her daughters, 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-family-carer-calls-for-means-test-to-be-abolished-as-household-costs-skyrocket-42017881.html “We are afraid to open the bills; Throwing crumbs at us won’t make a difference” – Family carer calls for abolition of means test as household expenses soar