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What a difference an ‘e’ can make. The difference between carer and career. Deciding, however, to prioritise the former can seriously jeopardise the latter. Most people have little choice in the matter.

I am, of course, being slightly tongue-in-cheek when I say ‘I don’t care any more’. My wife and I looked after my mother, who developed vascular dementia at the ripe old age of 90, caring for her at home until her death on 1 January – a day short of her 96th birthday. So, it is only in this very practical sense that I no longer care.

I do, however, care about those who still have the burden of looking after loved ones. They cannot walk away. So I listened with mounting incredulity yesterday as HSE Director-General designate Tony O’Brien was very jesuitical about what was actually going to be cut in the latest round of slash and burn.

The Irish Times today reports ‘services are likely to be seriously affected by a 600,000-hour cut in home help hours, as well as a reduction of 200 home care packages and a €10 million reduction in hours for personal assistants for people who need high levels of support trying to live independently’.

The net economic benefit to the government of ‘caring’ is estimated to be around €2.5 billion per annum.

I heard Mr O’Brien on Radio 1 while on my way to being treated to lunch in a relaxed restaurant with a garden set close to the sea. The sun shone, the food was beautiful, the company lovely. A couple sat opposite us who were no longer in the first flush of youth. They patiently spooned food into their two disabled adult daughters’ mouths, tenderly wiping any that overflowed.

I am not sure what the ‘new man’ at the HSE earns, but his predecessor reputedly earned €322,000. The beleaguered Minister for Health James Reilly earns in the region of €170,000. Unless it has changed since January, the carer’s allowance is €204 euro per week.

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