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Allow Us Learn Campaign (2019)

Hundreds of young school leavers with a disability set to take up training programmes in September are to have a special allowance of €31.80 per week axed.

Rehab, along with other disability groups, say this will have a devastating impact on those who need specialist supports to access further education and employment.

The allowance is currently available to 2,300 young people who have a disability, who are leaving school and going on to do a Rehabilitative Training Programme. Rehabilitative Training, which is funded by the HSE, is geared towards supporting young school leavers with disabilities to develop a range of skills that will support them in developing independence and progressing to further education or employment. The allowance is a clear recognition of the fact that these young people need extra support during this difficult transition into further education or work.

Read more about our campaign below. 

Press Release - July 9th 2019

AXING OF VITAL TRAINING ALLOWANCE IS ATTACK ON MOST VULNERABLE
 

The axing of a vital allowance which enables people with disabilities to attend training courses and access employment is an attack on the most vulnerable people in society, according to Ireland’s largest disability service provider, Rehab Group.

Hundreds of young school leavers with a disability who take up training programmes this autumn are to have a special allowance of €31.80 per week axed which will have a devastating impact on those who need specialist supports to access further education and employment.

The allowance for those on rehabilitative training is a vital financial support. This small allowance facilitates people with disabilities to pay for travel and basic sustenance to attend training courses that can be far from their homes.

The move will affect hundreds of students hoping to access rehabilitative training courses with Rehab Group’s learning and training division, National Learning Network (NLN). NLN provides flexible training courses and support services for people who need specialist support in 50 centres around the country. 

Rehabilitative training is a life skills foundation programme funded by the HSE and is geared towards supporting adults with disabilities to develop a range of skills that will support them in developing independence and progressing to further education or employment.

Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, Kathleen O’Meara said: “This move is an attack on society’s most vulnerable people who are reliant on this small allowance to be able to access training and employment and demonstrates how people with disabilities continue to be treated like second class citizens. For many, the axing of this allowance will mean people leaving school will be faced with little option but to stay at home.

“The value of the allowance is €31.80 per student per week so the overall saving would be minimal and yet it is a vital lifeline to those who need specialist supports to access further education or to enter the workforce. We see every day how courses like those provided by NLN can change lives, if people are prevented from accessing such training it will ultimately cost the State more down the line. Very little has changed since Ireland’s ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last year the Government remains selectively blind to the true cost of disability in Ireland,” she added.

Leinster House Protest

A GROUP of students affected by the axing of a vital allowance which enables people with disabilities to attend training courses and access employment gathered at Leinster House today to appeal to the Minister for Health to reverse the decision. 

Hundreds of young school leavers with a disability set to take up training programmes next month are to have a special allowance of €31.80 per week axed. Disability groups say this will have a devastating impact on those who need specialist supports to access further education and employment.

Allow-us-learn

The allowance is currently available to 2,300 young people who have a disability, who are leaving school and going on to do a Rehabilitative Training Programme. Rehabilitative Training, which is funded by the HSE, is geared towards supporting young school leavers with disabilities to develop a range of skills that will support them in developing independence and progressing to further education or employment. The allowance is a clear recognition of the fact that these young people need extra support during this difficult transition into further education or work.

Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, Kathleen O’Meara said: “The allowance for those on Rehabilitative Training is a vital financial support. This small allowance facilitates young students to pay for travel and basic sustenance to attend training courses that can be far from their homes, particularly in rural Ireland. This move is an attack on society’s most vulnerable people who are reliant on this small allowance to be able to access training and employment. Our centres were informed yesterday in writing of this move, and for many, the axing of this allowance could mean young people leaving school will be faced with little option but to stay at home.”

A group of students who attend National Learning Network in Cork are set to gather at Leinster House today from 12.15pm to protest the move. About 400 students hoping to access rehabilitative training courses with Rehab Group’s learning and training division, National Learning Network (NLN), this September will be affected by the cut along with hundreds more across other organisations. 

Ms O’Meara added: “The value of the allowance is €31.80 per student per week so the overall saving to Government would be minimal and yet it is a vital lifeline to those who need specialist supports to access further education or to enter the workforce. We see every day how courses like those provided by NLN can change lives, if people are prevented from accessing such training it will ultimately cost the State more down the line. We appeal to the Minster of Health, Simon Harris and the HSE to reinstate this vital payment as a matter of urgency.”

Six disability groups unite to demand #allowuslearn

ORGANISATIONS STEP UP CAMPAIGN TO REVERSE CRUEL AXING OF TRAINING ALLOWANCE FOR SCHOOL LEAVERS WITH DISABILTIES  

Six disability groups came together today to protest the planned axing of a vital training allowance which supports people with disabilities who take up training programmes.  

As thousands of students who received CAO offers on Friday prepare to take up college courses in the coming weeks, a cohort of vulnerable students with disabilities face having a vital training allowance axed next month putting their ability to attend further training in jeopardy.  

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Conor Dillonand Ciaran Costello, a student from Westmeath representing the National Learning Network (right), campaigning to reverse the axing of the Training Allowance for School Leavers with Disabilities. Pic: Robbie Reynolds

The weekly Rehabilitative Training allowance of €31.80 is provided to school-leavers with a disability who take part in training programmes. It aims to support their progression to further education or employment. There are currently 2,300 students eligible for the allowance which is due to be phased out, with incoming students in the autumn no longer qualifying for it. The allowance is used by those participating in training programmes to pay for food, travel, the extra costs of having a disability and socialising.

One in four people with a disability live in consistent poverty compared with 8% of the general population and this move by the HSE will further widen the poverty gap.

Conor Dillon, a RT student from Swords, who will take up his place with Clontarf CRC in September told a packed press conference today, ‘Why should other students on the same course get this and not me.’ Pic: Robbie Reynolds
It is estimated that this cut will impact approximately 400 students alone this year. Many students waiting to start rehabilitative courses in September would have factored this allowance into their budgets and now may now not be able to take up these courses.

Research conducted by Rehab among students currently undertaking its rehabilitative training courses revealed that 80% of respondents couldn’t have done the course without the allowance. The research also revealed 80pc of respondents use the allowance to pay for food and 40pc for transport.

Representatives from Aontas, the Central Remedial Clinic, Disability Federation of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab held a press conference at Buswell’s Hotel at 11am on Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

The group was united in its opposition to the planned abolition of the Rehabilitative Training Allowance which it described as a ‘cruel and short-sighted measure’. It called on the HSE and Health Minister, Simon Harris to reverse this decision.

Conor Dillonand Ciaran Costello, a student from Westmeath representing the National Learning Network (right), campaigning to reverse the axing of the Training Allowance for School Leavers with Disabilities. Pic: Robbie Reynolds
Joan Carthy of the Irish Wheelchair Association said: “Rehabilitative training is vital to help young people with a disability to develop the skills and confidence required to live independent lives and contribute to society.  The vast majority of young people starting these courses in September are teenagers and school leavers.  Without this modest allowance many young people won’t be able to begin a rehabilitative training course.  Often, they will be left with no other option than to stay at home. The axing of this allowance is therefore completely at odds with the Government’s employment strategy, which saw it increase the quota of people with disabilities to be employed in the public services from 3 percent to 6 percent.”

“It is unacceptable that, as thousands of their classmates and friends are preparing for third-level courses and apprenticeships, students with a disability are being denied access to training. It is clear that, without this allowance, young people with a disability will have a further barrier to equality placed before them,” she added.

Conor Dillon from Swords, Co Dublin who is set to take up Rehabilitative Training Programme with the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Clontarf in September will now not receive this allowance worth €1,650 per year.

“I think that it was very wrong that this allowance is being taken away from people who are doing their best to progress with their education.  I am really annoyed and I feel discriminated against.  Why is it our allowance that was taken away?  I was planning on using this money for lunches and transport while I completed this course,” he said.

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Conor Dillon (front left) and Joan Carty from the Irish Wheelchair Association (front right) with Mark O’Connor, Inclusion Ireland (left); Ben Hendriksen, Central Remedial Clinic; Clare Cronin, Disability Federation of Ireland; and Ciaran Costello, a student from Westmeath representing the National Learning Network (right). Pic. Robbie Reynolds

The HSE has said ending the Rehabilitative Training (RT) bonus would yield €3.7 million over a four-year period which will be reinvested in disability day services.  

Joan Carthy concluded: “We are asking the HSE, why should one group of vulnerable people who need support to progress have money taken from them to boost services in other disability areas? There is a palpable anger among the disability community that the HSE has singled out young people with a disability for a cruel, short-sighted cutback.  The HSE, and the Minister for Health, must recognise the damage this move will inflict on hundreds of young people, all of whom have already overcome significant disadvantages, and ensure that new entrants receive the allowance in September.”

Read Bevan's Story

My name is Bevan Murphy, I’m a student on the Directions course at NLN Hollyhill, Cork; and I’m one of the key people who started our campaign against Simon Harris TD cutting our weekly HSE Training Allowance payment of €31.80.

We started our protest because we are very angry at the fact that Simon Harris, the Minster for Health, is taking away the €31.80 Training Allowance from students, from 1 September onwards. This is the second time the Government has cut a vital HSE payment, and they need to hear: THEY SHOULD STOP!

He did this while we were on our mandatory two-week centre summer shutdown. We’re really angry (rude word level!) and it hurts that he’s picking on one of the most vulnerable groups in society.

So, we started doing lots of things – we set up an online petition (370+ signatures), and a written petition (500+ signatures, so far). Several times we’ve protested on Patrick St in the centre of Cork, shouting, getting signatures, shaking hands with lots of local councillors, TDs and the public (thanks to Cllrs Mick Nugent, Tony Fitzgerald and Thomas Gould in particular).

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On Thursday 1 August, we went to the Daíl on Kildare Street in Dublin. We planned the day, made signs, posters and a huge banner and linked in with the Rehab Head Office, to make sure everyone inside and outside the Daíl would hear us!

We started our protest at 12.30pm and soon had lots of TD and press attention.

Caoimghhin Ó Caoláin and Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein met with us and said they’d keep supporting our campaign, as did other Sinn Fein TDs. Inclusion Ireland joined in and brought their own posters.

I was interviewed and filmed by RTE, Newstalk Radio, VirginMedia, The Irish Sun, The Irish Times and The Irish Independent, as were many other students. In Cork the previous week we’d been visited at our NLN Centre by Cork’s 96FM radio. We had two local councillors come and speak with us, as well as Barry Murphy of the Cork Council of Trade Unions – who planned to host me and other students at a protest meeting at the Cork Lord Mayor’s Office on 28 August 2019.


We also created really successful Twitter and Facebook accounts (@allowuslearn and facebook.com/ savethetrainingallowance) which we’d love everyone to follow.

Group-shot-with--Sinn-Fein-s-Caoimhghin-O-Caolain

How have I felt about all this? It’s happened really fast. I’d never done anything like this before, this is totally new for me. First, I felt like if Simon Harris was in front of me, I wanted to – well, you can’t put it on paper. I felt sorry for the new students, knowing I’m getting paid extra every week and they’re not. At first I thought I’d be affected too, but then I realised what was going on.

That got me thinking – if he was able to do this now, what’s to say in the future he won’t take the HSE Training Allowance off the rest of us, as well?

I feel very passionate about this, and it’s true I’d feel guilty if in September I’d be sitting next to people who didn’t have the Allowance, while I did.  So I had to act. I talked with other students and we all decided that we couldn’t just sit back and be, like, “So what?”

It didn’t take long for everyone to agree and by a day and a half later local councillor Fiona Ryan was visiting us, and that afternoon we were in downtown Cork with posters, using her megaphone and telling this to the world.

We’re still getting lots of press here in Cork. Barry Murphy of the Cork Council of Trade Unions arranged for the Cork Echo to come and interview us, and we were in the paper on 20 August. 


I’d say to you all, if you feel passionate about an issue then feel free to join our campaign (or make your own) to contact your local TD. I hope that I have empowered you to speak up for yourself, and any family that may have a disability.