ALONE asks does affordability outweigh an older persons rights and entitlements

ALONE, the charity that helps people age at home, is today asking, after the Attorney General’s report titled Nursing Home Charges & Disabled Persons Maintenance Allowance was released in full yesterday evening, does legal and fiscal prudence break the social contract when it comes to the rights of older people and people who are less powerful.


The charity wonders if every national scandal must be brought by people without means through the expensive legal system privately in order to seek a remedy while the government uses the defence of prudence and public interest to defend the lack of recourse. We accept that government departments and institutions may make mistakes and fix them for the future but asks should the rights of those not affected outweigh those of the people directly affected, when it comes to remedying past failures. Time and again, with a number of issues, there have been corrective actions applied to prevent further damage but a failure to compensate for the wrong already caused.


We are not surprised by the findings of the AG’s report and accept their bona fides as a legal position but what is accurate and acceptable by law is not always what is acceptable in the context of our values. The legal advice provided to the government on nursing home fees was “sound, accurate and appropriate” but that doesn’t mean that individuals affected were treated fairly.


If the State will act in a way which doesn’t respect the rights and entitlements of individual citizens and their families, particularly older people and those less capable of advocating for themselves, we wonder how the social contract is to be upheld. People pay taxes and their expectation is that the state will provide care when they need it most.


These older people were in some cases placed into private nursing home care without they or their families knowing the full implications of the costs involved at a stressful time of life.


ALONE CEO, Sean Moynihan said, “We very much welcome the reflection process that the government has chosen to undertake. The Minister for Social Protection and the Minister for Health have a better understanding of social contract and how we as a society must treat our more vulnerable citizens. The legal finding says that the government acted in the public interest in terms of the tax payer but that is a two way street that implies everyone be provided with their rights and entitlement when and if needed.”


“I hope that this reflection and the findings of the Ministers will create guidelines for all government departments in how they should act in similar situations in the future. I question the use of intergenerational injustice in the report. We will always have to use today’s taxes to right wrongs of other tax payers in the past so that in the future we will have an expectation that our rights and entitlements will be protected. Our hope is that the two Ministers will reflect on the wider, holistic wrong here and on the fact that a society’s duty is to care for its frail and vulnerable when they most need it and not hide behind a legal system when a wrong is done to avoid making it right for those affected at the time. We as an organisation understand and practice prudence as does every household in the country but we do not do it at the expense of our values.”


Continuing he says “If the state at the time could not afford to provide the care for those entitled to it then it should have a system to pay for it now when they can. This should be the same for other historic wrongs that have occurred in our history in order to give people confidence in our states ability to deliver on the social contract.”


In the case of older people The Commissioner for Care , as provided for in the Programme for Government would be the perfect mechanism for dealing with this matter and others and we urge immediate action on this promise so that we as a state can protect and care for all our citizens.


The Alliance of Age Sector NGO’s, also calls for the establishment an Independent Commissioner for Ageing and Older People in its most recent report on Ageism – Telling It Like It Is.