'Give nurses a say in who gets benefits'
DISTRICT health nurses should have a greater say in who receives payments such as disability benefit and carer's allowance, a majority of Wexford county councillors voted last week.
But a minority of council members voted against the motion tabled by Cllr Michael Sheehan, suggesting that the nurses would come under pressure from local councillors if they were the ones making decision on benefit applications.
The Fianna Fáil representative suggested that nurses have a better understanding of the circumstances in which applicants find themselves. He suggested that, at present, the decision lies with bureaucrats in Dublin ticking boxes.
Cllr Larry O'Brien of Fine Gael, pictured right, felt that the nurses would not thank anyone for handing the job to them. 'Do you not think that they are doing enough?' he asked the man from New Ross.
Cllr Anna Fenlon (FG) suggested that leaving the allocation of disability payment and carer's allowance to local health service personnel would put a lot of pressure on them.
She also suggested that applicants would prefer to be assessed by a stranger and that the process was working fairly. However, Cllr Sheehan referred to the case of the son of an incapacitated 87-year-old who had been refused carer's allowance.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne (FF) felt that applications are being processed very slowly under the present system but he suggested that handing the job to the locals would not result in consistency.
Cllr Byrne also suggested that the nurses would not appreciate politicians ringing them to sort out individual cases.
The motion calling for decentralisation of assessment was passed 10 votes to six.