WITH the stroke of a pen someone in Dublin can wreak devastation for the vulnerable members of Clare’s rural community by signing off on the rural transport programme.
That’s the opinion of Councillor PJ Ryan, who stressed that the community-based transport service responds to the needs of today. It keeps communities alive and, if anything, the network needs to be more extensive rather than faced with fighting for what they have, he said.
With the abolition of the rural transport initiative mooted by An Bord Snip, the Independent councillor cautioned, “If this programme goes, people with disabilities will lose the only integrated transport service available to them. People will become house-bound and their health will deteriorate.”
While a day of action opposing the proposed abolition of the service is planned in Ennis on Friday, September 11, Councillor Ryan said ending the service doesn’t make economical or social sense.
“The Government will lose revenue from the activities generated by this service and its employees through VAT, excise duty and PRSI. Consequently, increased social security payments will have to support all the 20 employees in Clare who will lose their livelihoods,” he emphasised.
The Feakle-based Clare Accessible Transport (CAT) runs the service and operates eight purpose-built, low floor, easy access buses. The fleet services a countywide schedule for members, currently standing at 3,300, who make well over 3,000 passenger trips each month. It also provides a unique service for wheelchair users.
“The ability to remain living more independently in one’s own home is just one of the social impacts that is difficult to quantify in financial terms. Suffice to say, improved quality of life and positive health and mental wellbeing, along with increased mobility, has the potential to further reduce costs for the State in terms of medication and the necessity of locally-based supports.
“In times of restructuring and rationalisation, where there is a shift in healthcare policy towards dedicated centres of excellence, access had never been more essential or less valued. Investment in accessible local transportation is the key ingredient in delivering community-based care and it is the only way in which rural people will reap the benefits of the changes to our healthcare system,” he added.
Councillor Ryan argued that to abolish the RTP would increase expenditure within the health sector by 75% and reverse the headway that had been achieved already.
“The RTP has established and quantified the movement of people in the rural areas. This information will be lost after spending so much to build the infrastructure. Unfortunately, we have seen too many reports generated by consultants over the past 12 years left to collect dust on shelves. The McCarthy suggestion is a repeat of that.
“The infrastructure is now in place so why not let the companies within the RTP do their work and make further savings within the health sector and other Government agencies,” he added.