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HSE asks priest – do you get child maintenance?

Dara Bradley

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A parish priest was asked by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide evidence that he was receiving child maintenance payments after applying for a medical card.

The priest, who was not aged 66, was also asked to supply the medical cards office of the HSE with details of whether he was being paid a State pension.

The priest, from the West of Ireland, had applied for a medical card and filled out the necessary forms.

The returned form included that he was a priest, and gave his age, which is not that of someone who could receive a pension.

But weeks later, the application was sent back to the priest, who was asked to clarify whether he was in receipt of child maintenance.

Child maintenance usually, but not always, is paid to mothers; and only people with children would be in line for maintenance. It is included in a statement of means to determine eligibility for a medical card. Though he is of an age that makes him ineligible for a pension, the medical cards office also asked for pension details.

The case was highlighted by Mayo County Councillor Michael Kilcoyne, at the recent regional health forum west meeting.

Mr Kilcoyne said it was bureaucracy gone mad before outlining a similar, more serious case of the inflexibility of the medical cards office.

In this instance, the woman had her medical card cancelled even though she had provided the HSE with all the necessary information.

She applied for the medical card but was asked to send in a notice of assessment from the Revenue Commissioners. This assessment, which contains USC and PRSI details, used to be spread over four pages. But revenue has recently streamlined the document and has put all the information into one page.

When this woman sent in the assessment with all the relevant information on one page, the medical cards office replied and said she was missing three pages. She got in touch with them to say that all of the information was now being provided on one page, and not three, but the medical cards office refused the application.

Cllr Kilcoyne said the woman’s card was refused, and she is now paying for doctor’s visits and medication because the medical card office cannot communicate with Revenue about a change from four pages to one.

Cllr Kilcoyne added: “I’ve come across several cases like these. One is more unbelievable than the next. I have the emails to prove it. It’s just unreal what is going on. But the long and the short of it is that it is Government policy not to issue medical cards. As soon as they issue a medical card, it costs money. So they are trying everything they can to delay and postpone and avoid issuing medical cards. This is the new Ireland that Enda Kenny talks about – isn’t it great?”

Bernard Gloster, Interim Chief Officer of HSE West, said he would look into the matter.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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