Social care minister apologizes for letter asking grieving mother for money
The welfare minister has apologized after a mother, whose son died last month after a lifelong battle with profound disability, said she was disgusted and in tears after receiving a official request for the return of a week’s invalidity allowance.
Tracy McGinnis’ eldest son, Brendan Bjorn, was born with congenital CMV, leaving him severely disabled and ‘medically fragile’.
Ms McGinnis documented their lives on her blog, ‘Transitioning Angels’, and described how the family’s hearts were broken when he died on May 17, aged 17.
But yesterday she received a letter from the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs that left her in shock.
It read, “On behalf of this department, I wish to offer my sincere condolences to you and your family on your recent bereavement.
“It has come to our attention that Mr McGinnis died on 17/5/22, payments continued to be collected at the post office until 18/5/22 inclusive. This resulted in an overpayment of €208.00 from 5/18/22 to 5/24/22. This money must now be reimbursed to the department.
He added that Ms. McGinnis could make payment by check or bank draft to the Minister of Social and Family Affairs, and that an arrangement could be made for repayment to be made in installments if she was unable to repay the full amount “at this moment “.
In a social media post, Ms McGinnis showed an excerpt from the letter, writing: ‘In post today. Pardon my language, but how dare you f*cking @wellness_ie. ‘
She continued: ‘Yes, I collected the only €208 the week my first son died thinking the payments lasted six weeks. This warning disgusts me. Absolutely pissed off and now sobbing.
Three hours later, she added: ‘So that’s me, stunned. I just received a phone call from the “Deputy Director of Disability Benefits Section” at Longford.
‘She apologized for the tone of the letter…but that’s a policy so, yeah, the [money] is still due to them. Keep Ireland classy and official.
Ms McGinnis said she didn’t have the energy to appeal the decision, but said the department would have to knock on her door if they wanted the money.
She said she believed disability benefits lasted six weeks after a disabled family member died. She has since learned that this only applies if the person was a spouse or partner.
She received many messages of support and condemnation of the request. A mother who has a child with an intellectual disability said it was “absolutely heartless” and “outrageous”.
She noted: ‘Disability benefits are part of household income and bills must always be paid the same week someone dies. It’s impossible to have another source of income in place within a day of someone’s death.
Ms McGinnis, a single mother with a younger son, Declan, has provided round-the-clock care for Brendan all his life. His illnesses included severe spastic quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, refractory epilepsy, scoliosis with spinal fusion, osteoporosis, and hip dysplasia. Brendan was also non-verbal and had to be fed through a tube.
Two weeks after her death, she wrote on her blog: “They don’t tell you that spending almost 18 years working, fighting, sacrificing everything you are and doing everything you can to keep your life alive. medically complex and profoundly disabled child will mean absolutely nothing to the officials of your country as they throw you into the depths of financial despair as you drown in the depths of complete emotional despair.
A spokesman for the Department of Social and Family Affairs said: ‘The Department has contacted the person concerned by telephone and apologized for any upset or distress caused.
They said the department could not comment on individual cases, but that, “like other primary welfare payments, Disability Allowance ceases to be paid to the person when they die.”
Talk to The Anton Savage ShowMinister Heather Humphreys admitted her department had made a disastrous mistake in its dealings with Ms McGinnis; “It shouldn’t have happened and how anyone thought it was appropriate to send a letter to a grieving mother is beyond me and I spoke to my officials about it,” she admitted.
“They will look into how they handle cases like this in the future, but for someone to receive a letter like this a few weeks after their son’s death is deaf. We need to do better and we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again…and all I can do is apologize…and may I express my deepest sympathy to Tracey on the loss of her dear son Brendan and my heart is with her. ‘