Rehab, one of Ireland’s largest disability charities, says Budget 2018 must signal the start of sustainable and incremental improvements in the financial position of people with disabilities.
While the organisation welcomes increased welfare payments and the reduction in prescription charges it calls on the Government to honour its commitment to people with disabilities in a climate where Ireland has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities more than a decade after it was signed.
Speaking after the Budget, Kathleen O’Meara, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, said: “An increase in social welfare across the board of €5 per week is welcome for now. However, the Government must recognise the higher cost of living for people with disabilities and must continue to increase disability payments into the future. It’s past time the Government delivered on commitments made to the 600,000 people with disabilities and their families in Ireland if they are to improve the quality of life of people who comprise more than 13pc of the population.”
Proactive steps are also required to ensure greater take up of employment for people with disabilities who can and want to work. In a survey carried out among people using Rehab’s services, 85% of people said they would like a job but couldn’t get one. More concerning, 64% of people said they would be worried about losing their benefits if they were offered a job in the future.
Measures promised in the Make Work Pay Report, which would have seen an increase in the income threshold for medical cards for people with disabilities, were not announced in the Minister’s address this afternoon.
Ms O’Meara added: “Prescription charges are effectively a tax on people on low incomes which rises with medical need. While today’s announcement will reduce the monthly cost for many people with disabilities by €5, the government needs to commence the full abolition of prescription charges in coming years to cease this acutely discriminatory charge which has the greatest impact on people who have the greatest ill-health.
“In a survey of people using Rehab’s services carried out in advance of Budget 2018, 71% stated that paying the prescription charges was a challenge each month. The announcement today by Minister Donohoe that prescription charges will be reduced for all medical card holders under 70 is welcome, but more needs to be done.”