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Portlaoise Cancer Care

28 November 2007

Senator Ivana Bacik: What is clear from what has been said in the discussion about the health service and the current crisis in Portlaoise in cancer care is that, for the sake of the women and their families who are suffering terribly at this time, the key question that must be asked in this House and elsewhere is who is responsible.

If nobody will take responsibility, why not? It is clear the Minister bears ultimate responsibility for a system which she set up and which appears to be responsible for failures in communication, diagnosis and treatment. If not the Minister, why has somebody lower down the hierarchy not resigned?

In Britain, the head of Revenue and Customs took the responsibility and resigned following an error of which he was clearly unaware. Nobody in the HSE, the Department of Health and Children, Portlaoise Hospital or anywhere else in the health care system has yet taken responsibility for the terrible situation in which these women find themselves.

I renew my call for a debate on the restoration of universal child benefit to children of asylum seekers who are in receipt of direct provision. When I called for such a debate on the Adjournment last week, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs responded by stating asylum seekers were receiving direct provision in lieu of child benefit. Direct provision is only €9.60 per week per child for the approximately 2,000 children of asylum seekers. By contrast, child benefit is €160 per month, or approximately €40 per week. Yesterday I spoke at an Irish Refugee Council launch to call for an increase in the amounts payable under direct provision in order that they would be at least equivalent to the amount paid in child benefit and close to the sum of €40 per week.

I again ask the Leader to convene a debate on the terrible situation of children of asylum seekers in particular, who are in real poverty and to whom we are simply not paying adequate social welfare.