[Sinn Fein]

July 11th 2002

Dáil debate on Ansbacher - Speech by Sean Crowe

As a TD representing a constituency with a high level of dependence on social welfare, large numbers of people on low wages and small businesses struggling to make it in a very competitive market, I want to address some of the implications of the Ansbacher Report for ordinary people.

Anyone who has been through the social welfare system knows the tortuous bureaucracy they have to go through for even the most basic entitlements. Their income and that of their families is carefully scrutinised and assessed. At every stage the system has checks and balances and no stone is left unturned to ensure that social welfare fraud is ruled out.

The system is even more difficult for those applying for means-tested payments. People who care for elderly and infirm relatives in their homes, people with disabilities or children with long-term illnesses must pass a means test to qualify for a small Carer's Allowance. An increase in their income can result in cutting of their allowance or of its termination altogether. The means test of course is not really a means test at all because it only assesses income and takes no account of the cost of living for carers.

You have to go through a means test also to qualify for a medical card. All TDs and councillors are aware of the strict criteria which apply and we meet every week the many, many people in real medical need and financial hardship who do not qualify for a medical card.

These are citizens of our country who cannot pay professionals to sort out their affairs for them. They don't have accountants and private bankers. They don't have tax consultants to advise them or solicitors and barristers to shield them from the rigours of the law. What a contrast between the ordinary citizens of Ireland and the Ansbacher set.

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