Minister apologises for ‘tone-deaf’ letter demanding repayment from grieving mother

Minister Apologises For ‘Tone-Deaf’ Letter Demanding Repayment From Grieving Mother Minister Apologises For ‘Tone-Deaf’ Letter Demanding Repayment From Grieving Mother
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the debt will be struck out. Photo: PA
Share this article

A mother who got a disability allowance "repayment demand" shortly after her son's death has been told she will no longer have to pay it.

Tracy McGinnis cared for her son Brendan Bjorn for 17 years before he died on May 17th.

Brendan was born with Congenital CMV, leaving him profoundly disabled. His illnesses included severe spastic quadriplegia, intractable epilepsy, scoliosis with a spinal fusion, osteoporosis and hip dysplasia.

His mother provided round-the-clock care for her son, who was also non-verbal and was fed using a tube.

Brendan Bjorn and Tracy McGinnis

“The past 17½ years were spent fighting for proper services – timely medical care and interventions, equipment, operations and even respite for myself,” said Tracy on Friday. “He is the reason I became an advocate.”

On Friday morning, less than a month after his death, she received a letter from the Disability Allowance Section, Department of Social and Family Affairs, which is based in Longford. It stated: “It has come to our attention that Mr McGinnis died on May 17th, payments continued to be collected at the post office up to and including May 18th. This has resulted in an overpayment of €208.”


The letter continued. “This money now needs to be refunded to the department as you were the agent on Mr McGinnis’s claim I am writing to you for clarification in this matter.”

On Saturday morning, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the demand was “tone-deaf” and announced the debt will be struck out.

“This shouldn’t have happened and how anybody thought it was appropriate to send a letter to a grieving mother is beyond me and I have spoken to my officials about it,” Ms Humphreys told Newstalk radio.

“They’re going to look at how they handle cases like this in the future but for somebody to receive a letter like that a few weeks after their son died is tone-deaf.

“We have to do better and we have to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Ms Humphreys extended her deepest condolences to Ms McGinnis on the death of her son and apologised for the letter.

Read More

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2023, developed by Square1 and powered by