Belfast Telegraph

Autistic children 'not targeted'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected accusations that the Government has targeted autistic children for cuts to the domiciliary care allowance.

Hours after more than 100 angry parents and their disabled children marched to the Dail demanding a meeting with social protection minister Joan Burton, Mr Kenny was forced to defend the Government's decision to impose cuts.

"I reject your charge that the minister for social protection and the Government are targeting autistic children," said Mr Kenny.

"As you are well aware, for every entitlement there is an evaluation process. I reject out of hand your assertion that the Government are targeting autistic children to deliberately remove consideration from them."

The Taoiseach pointed out that Ms Burton has commissioned a report into the domiciliary care allowance to ensure that no child with needs loses out on the social welfare payment. He added that while many children with autism have special needs, many function normally in society and do not require Government support.

Mr Kenny also insisted that a proper evaluation is carried out to determine whether a family needs the allowance, which in some cases, along with other means-tested allowances, can reach a reported 1,500 euro a year.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin accused the Government of carrying out a "reckless assault" on autistic children, saying 50% have lost the allowance.

He said Mr Kenny and Ms Burton, who is also deputy leader of the Labour Party, were out of touch with how devastating the condition can be on families. The minister outlined in the 2012 Budget that the 309.50 euro monthly allowance would stop for many families, depending on whether the affected child required the additional Government support.

Crowds of angry parents waved placards at the Dail, some depicting Ms Burton as "Joan Scissorhands" due to the cuts, saying they could no longer afford to look after their children.

"(This shows) a lack of any idea of what issues and challenges a child with autism has in his or her life," said Mr Martin.

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