A CORK carer, who herself has disabilities, has spoken of the daily struggles which led her to record her despair in the time capsule section of her census form.
“Ireland is a cold, cruel place for people with disabilities and carers,” Julie Anne Cunneen wrote in her census form.
Ms Cuneen, who is deaf and has arthritis, is the mother of a 14-year-old boy who is also deaf and suffers from arthritis, and who has autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia.
Ms Cunneen told The Echo that her son Liam received cochlear implants ten years ago, but she says they have received little in the way of other State supports since then.
This year’s census form, which households were obliged to fill on Sunday 3 April, offered for the first time an optional time capsule section in which people could record a message which will be published in the year 2122.
Ms Cunneen, who lives in Upper Glanmire, wrote in her time capsule that for carers and people with disabilities “there are no services, no supports, no respite, no future. Everything is waiting lists, no accountability.
“We are seen as a burden, a problem. I am tired of being forgotten, of being treated like a third-class citizen, of burning out from physical, emotional and financial strain.” Ireland had lost its way, and, she said, Government had left the most vulnerable behind.
“Who will hear our voices, and show strength and leadership?” she asked. “Who will change our future? Things can, and need to change.”
Ms Cunneen wrote that there is no compassion, and no real understanding, for those living with disabilities: “It’s every man, woman for themselves. I write this in hope there will be change. A brighter future.”
Ms Cunneen told The Echo that she had been despairing when she filled out her census form, and she said many carers struggle with the sense that they have been abandoned and left behind by the State.
Cork families express anger at meeting with disabilities minister https://t.co/gPnF17Olgy— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) April 7, 2022
“Every section of government from education, transport, housing, to health has turned their backs on carers and people with disabilities,” she said.
“People with disabilities and carers are barely living in the now, we are barely hanging on from the lack of services and support.
“We are the forgotten citizens of Ireland, the ones that are being left behind. We are waiting to die, but in equal measures, we fear death, and leaving our children with no support in the future,” she said.
“Who will love and support my son when I am dead and gone? How will his complex needs be met? Will he be afraid, or treated badly when I am no longer here?” Ms Cunneen said carers are exhausted from trying to get access to services while facing endless waiting lists.
“I feel like we don’t matter, and I feel I am drowning in a vast ocean of responsibility, fear, pain, and financial debt,” she said.
“I don’t feel any hope that Ireland will protect her most vulnerable, but I am crying out to see change, to see our needs being met, and to see carers being paid a fair wage for the extremely hard work they do.
“I want my son to be proud of the Ireland he is growing up in, and to feel part of his community and to be heard.” Ms Cunneen said for there to be a better future for people like her and her son Liam, Ireland needed to start listening to people with disabilities and their carers.
“Walk in my shoes and I will show you real life, the life of a person with a disability, the life of a full-time career, working 24/7,” Ms Cunneen said.