The state has refused to pay disability benefits to up to 12,000 vulnerable people, RTÉ Investigates has learned.
And if these vulnerable citizens sued the state for payment, the legal advice was that their case was likely to succeed.
A secret memo prepared for the Cabinet in 2009 said the country could face up to €700 million in maintenance claims from people with disabilities.
A memo obtained by RTÉ Investigates advised states not to conduct trawls of HSE records to determine the number of people affected. Such exercises are likely to attract media attention and “could generate further allegations that otherwise would not have been made,” he said.
In the 1980s, regulations were introduced to stop paying maintenance fees to residential caregivers.
In late 2008, the state settled for €60,000 a lawsuit filed against a woman whose child support had stopped when she was admitted to a psychiatric facility in 1983.
The legal position given to the country at the time of the incident was that the rules were unconstitutional and had little chance of surviving legal challenges.
The allowance was €50 per week in 1983 and increased to €80 per week in 1996.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the woman following Travers’ report in 2005. The report uncovered a 30-year illegal nursing home billing system.
The legal document filed on behalf of the woman used the exact same language as the case featured in the nursing home scandal, stating that the regulations used to stop the payment of disability benefits were effectively void and legally binding. I pointed out that it was an Ultrabya, which means that it is ineffective.
Nonetheless, the practice of refusing to pay disability benefits to people in institutional care persisted for years, affecting thousands of people in up to 140 institutional care homes, mostly with severe conditions. I had a disability.
According to a secret memo prepared for the Cabinet following the woman’s case, the advice of the Attorney General’s Office was “it is highly unlikely that the State will be able to defend this case.”
Also, while the €60,000 payment itself is not significant, the number of other potential cases is.
The memo said between 4,000 and 10,000 people could be affected while payments are being made by the Ministry of Health, and another 2,700 could be affected after the switch to the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs. It is
We estimate that the claims against both divisions could be between €350 million and €700 million, net of legal costs.
At the time, the state did not know the exact number of people affected. However, the memo states that a “comprehensive troll” can be performed on “HSE management records covering 30 years” of more than 140 different institutional care centers.
But the memo advised against this.
“Such exercises are unlikely to escape media attention and speculation, and may generate further allegations that otherwise would not have been made.” said he hadn’t thought about it.
Although the state wanted to avoid further lawsuits, RTÉ Investigates is aware of at least one other lawsuit since.
It took place on similar terms and was quietly resolved in line with secret government strategy.
There were several parliamentary questions and one request for information on behalf of the people. But no other cases appeared.
Several experts told RTÉ Investigates that many of those likely affected were unaware of the incident because they were in a protected environment or were incapable of understanding or initiating a claim. .
They would have relied on the state to care for them and defend them.
The cabinet memo also mentioned a contingency plan to set a statutory repayment plan, but said this should not be activated unless incidents start to occur.
In a statement to RTÉ Investigates, the Ministry of Health stated that between 1973 and 1996, the benefit, known as the Disability Maintenance Allowance (DPMA), was available to “persons over the age of 16 who are neither themselves nor a spouse.” pointed out that it had been paid to I was able to feed myself.”
“However, people with disabilities who were residing in long-term care facilities did not receive DPMA after the first eight weeks of residential care. There was a historic case where… this allowance.”
He also noted that in 1996 responsibility for payment was transferred to the then Department of Social and Family Affairs and was renamed Disability Allowance.
Earlier this week, The Mail on Sunday reported on documents provided by Department of Health whistleblower Shane Core. They identified the nature of legal strategies to limit exposure to claims made on behalf of people in certain nursing homes.