Mum told to repay €208 after son’s death


    A grieving mother from Waterford has hit out at the Department of Social Protection after receiving a letter demanding the repayment of €208 in disability allowance, which was collected the day after her severely disabled son passed away.

    Having cared for her beloved son, Brendan Bjorn, for 17 years Tracy McGinnis, was devastated when he finally passed on May 17.

    On May 18, his disability payment was collected at the local post office, with Tracy believing that she was entitled to six week’s grace. However, she then received a letter from the Department of Social Protection and Family Affairs asking that she repay a week’s allowance which they say had been wrongly paid, as her son had passed away.

    “Yes, I collected the mere €208 the week my first-born son died, thinking payments went on for six weeks,” she said. “This demand letter disgusts me.”

    “This demand letter disgusts me.”

    “I just got a phone call from the ‘Assistant Principal of the Disability Allowance section’ in Longford,” she said. “She apologised for the tone of the letter, but stated that it stands as policy, so yes; the €208 is still owed to them,” she added. A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said that while they could not comment on individual cases, someone from the department has contacted the person concerned by phone and apologised for any upset or distress caused”.

    They stated that the position of the department in relation to somebody in receipt of disability allowance who passes away is that “Carer’s Allowance will continue to be paid for 12 weeks after a death”.

    Tracy added: “It’s maddening to think that politicians can get away not only with earning so much not just in salary, but travel expenses etc.

    “I bet not one of them could have, or would have, done the 24/7 nursing level work I did with my son for so many years, for no pay, no pension etc.

    “The past 17½ years were spent fighting for proper services — timely medical care and interventions, equipment, operations and even respite for myself,” she added. “He is the reason I became an advocate.”

    “We have to do better and we have to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the demand was “tone-deaf” and announced the debt will be struck out.

    “This shouldn’t have happened and how anybody thought it was appropriate to send a letter to a grieving mother is beyond me and I have spoken to my officials about it,” Ms Humphreys told Newstalk radio after the story broke recently.

    “They’re going to look at how they handle cases like this in the future but for somebody to receive a letter like that a few weeks after their son died is tone-deaf.

    “We have to do better and we have to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Ms Humphreys extended her deepest condolences to Ms McGinnis on the death of her son and apologised for the letter.

    Brendan was born with Congenital CMV, leaving him profoundly disabled. His illnesses included severe spastic quadriplegia, intractable epilepsy, scoliosis with a spinal fusion, osteoporosis and hip dysplasia. His mother provided round-the-clock care.


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