Once again the lives of the 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland, many of whom continue to live in abject poverty, have not been prioritised on Budget day according to Rehab Group, Ireland’s largest provider of services for people with disabilities.
“Budget 2019 announcements offered an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate their commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) objectives to improve the lives of people with disabilities, but they have failed to take the opportunity to address the big issues facing them, said Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, Kathleen O’Meara.
In a recent wide ranging survey of people with disabilities who use the Rehab Group services, it was revealed that many are skipping meals, going without medicine, cutting back on heating and cannot afford to go out because their disability payments are too small. The majority of those surveyed said that they found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to live on their allowance.
While a €5 per week increase in social welfare payments and the restoration of the Christmas Bonus were announced, this does not reflect the true costs of disability. The Rehab Group had called for an increase of €20 per week to Disability and other allowances and the setting up of a commission to establish the true costs of disability in Ireland.
“It is unacceptable that living with a disability in Ireland today can bring extra costs of between €207 and €276 per week. It is well established that people with disabilities are one of the groups in Ireland at highest risk of poverty,” said Ms O’Meara.
Another measure that Rehab Group called for was the elimination of prescription charges for people on medical cards, but Minister Paschal Donohoe’s announcement that prescription charges were going to be reduced by .50c only applies to people on medical cards over 70 years.
Rehab Group welcomes the announcement that €150m for disability services and the €1bn spending on Mental Health services however, awaits clarification on where funding will be allocated.
Almost three quarters of the people surveyed by Rehab Group (73%) said they were dependent on others for living arrangements- despite the fact that over 60% of them wanted to be financially independent and to work. “One of the main ways out of poverty for people with disabilities is through work”, said Ms O’Meara, “In our Pre-Budget submission, we proposed ways that employers could be encouraged to employ people with disabilities, including increases to the Wage Subsidy Scheme, but we did not hear any changes in this.”