I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this important matter which relates to a family with a number of children who have special needs and who previously were in receipt of a home care package in recognition of their special needs. As the pressure on this family was so great and in order to be nearer family members for support, they decided to move from County Kildare to their parents' home in County Galway. Unfortunately, given the current fluctuation in the housing market, it was necessary for them to return to County Kildare. The problem now is that their home care package has been re-allocated.
This is not a simple situation. It is one which the Minister of State might take up with his Department. It is odd that while previously the home care package was available to this family under the old health board system and that were it still in existence it would have been possible to restore to them the home care package on their return to County Kildare, that under the single health board now in operation this was found to be impossible.
I received a note in regard to this family from a neighbour who states that one of the children suffers from autism and kidney problems, a second child has hearing and speech problems and a third child suffers from chronic eczema problems that require the child to be almost completely bandaged and cared for full-time. The manner in which this family must operate is distressing. Both parents are teachers, one of whom has taken time off from work to care for the children while the other parent is at work.
When I took up this issue a few weeks ago, the family was not in receipt of a medical card although I believe they are entitled to one. The parents are devoting all of their time to addressing their children's health needs. I do not believe there is any more deserving case than this. I received the following response to a parliamentary question:
This family did receive home support hours previously and then left County Kildare and moved to County Galway. As we have not received an additional allocation for home support hours for the past number of years, we have been recycling hours to new families when they become available. This, in effect, is what happened to this family's hours when the family left Kildare. We now have a waiting list for children for home support and we are reviewing this service on an ongoing basis.
On 4 November I was told the family had been placed on a waiting list, that the service is being reviewed on an ongoing basis and that there are 27 children ahead of them. There were 27 children ahead of them on 29 September and as such the queue is not shortening. I ask the Minister of State, as a humanitarian gesture and in view of the extreme stress under which this family is currently operating and the fact they are caring for their family as best they can, to intervene and to make an exception in this case. Will he at least consider providing them with some support hours in order to relieve the stress on the wife in particular, which is enormous and will get worse?