Rehab, one of the country’s largest disability charities, believes Budget 2017 will make only small changes to the lives of people with disabilities. While a €5 increase in social welfare payments is welcome, it will do little to close the gap in income that people with disabilities have experienced over the last 8 years.
Of particular concern is the decision to limit reductions in prescription charges to people aged over 70. This reduction should also have been extended to people with disabilities aged under 70. A disability knows no age and does not distinguish between somebody who is 20-years-old or 75-years-old.
In taking this decision, the Government has missed an opportunity to recognise the major monthly cost that prescription charges represent for people with disabilities.
Prescription charges are a significant economic burden on people who have chronic conditions or disabilities and require medication. Many will reach the monthly maximum every month and can do little to reduce the cost because they need their medication. Rehab believes that the charge should be phased out and ultimately abolished for all. Instead, today’s Budget will only prolong this austerity measure for people with disabilities across the country.
A recent survey found that 70% of people who use Rehab’s services are finding it difficult to live on the income they receive from the State. People with disabilities face huge obstacles in getting a job and they therefore need adequate income support from the State to have a decent quality of life.
Speaking following the Budget announcement, Kathleen O’Meara, Rehab’s Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising, said: “Quite simply this Budget does not go far enough to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The reduction in prescription charges should apply to both people with disabilities and older people to recognise the significant impact that this charge has on them.
Although some benefits have been increased, they are minimal and will have little real impact on improving the lives of people with disabilities. Every day people tell us they struggle to stay on top of their bills and are forced to borrow to pay for the basic necessities. Some individuals and sectors may be feeling a recovery, but people with disabilities are not part of it. Instead, they are being left behind and austerity continues for people with disabilities.”
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The survey referenced above was completed by 650 people who take part in Rehab’s training, education and community support services in 46 locations throughout Ireland. People were asked about their financial situations and their hopes for Budget 2017.
The prescription per item charge has increased 500% since the introduction of the charges in 2010. People with disabilities experience many additional costs of living because they have a disability and the prescription charge is a significant contributor to these costs.
In its pre-budget submission, Rehab called on the Government to make the following changes to help improve the lives of people with disabilities;
1. Restore disposable income and quality of life for people in receipt of Disability Allowance through increases in Christmas bonus and other benefits
2. Restore the Christmas Bonus to 100%
3. Fund new research into the real cost of living with a disability
4. Increase Jobseekers payments for people under 26
5. Extend the fuel allowance to the end of April
6. Fully reinstate the Household Benefits Package
7. Abolish prescription charges over time and immediately reduce the monthly maximum for individuals
8. Invest in Mental Health Services increasing expenditure to 12% of the health budget over three years
9. Provide indefinite medical card eligibility for all people with disabilities who enter work from a disability-related social welfare payment
10. Reinstate the SOLAS Training Allowance to incentivise participation in further training and education
Rehab is a charity that champions the value of diversity and inclusion for people with a disability or disadvantage in their communities. Our mission is to help the people we serve to be more independent and to contribute to and be more included in their communities; empowering them with the skills and confidence to be active in the workforce, and supporting them to be in charge of their health and wellness. Over 20,000 people use Rehab's services - children and adults with disability, people on the autism spectrum, people with mental health difficulties and people who are disadvantaged in some way in the labour market. More than 3,200 employees deliver Rehab's services in over 170 locations in Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales and Poland.