Majority with disability ‘struggling’ to eat properly or stay warm

Most people with disabilities can’t afford to feed themselves properly or stay warm, it has emerged.

A wide-ranging survey by Rehab Group found that more than 60% of people with disabilities are struggling to live on their income and many regularly go without food or heat in their homes.

Rehab Group, one of the country’s largest disability charities, said its survey of almost 700 people who use its services shows the actual scale of disability and poverty in Ireland.

Nearly all of those surveyed (95%) believe the money they receive from social welfare needs to be increased so they can make ends meet.

People with disabilities also face enormous obstacles getting a job. The vast majority (84%) of those surveyed wanted to work but did not have a job.

Fear of losing benefits put off one in four from accepting a job offer, but most said they had never been offered one.

Fuel poverty is a big issue for people with disabilities. More than three-quarters (77%) stated that they needed the fuel allowance payment to be increased to heat their homes adequately.

More than 70% said they struggled to pay their prescription charges. Most said medical card holders should not have to pay them.

Looking ahead to Budget 2018, Rehab Group has produced a ‘to do’ list for the Government to make life a bit easier for people with disabilities.

Top of the list is a €5 increase in the disability allowance and a cap on prescription charges to a maximum of €20 a month, similar to the provision already made for people over 70.

It also wants part of the EU directives on public procurement transposed into Irish law to create jobs for individuals with disabilities. The regulatory change would allow public contracts to be reserved for an organisation employing 30% of people with disabilities and individuals who are disadvantaged.

It says the Government must deliver on promises made in the Make Work Pay Report to improve access to medical cards and travel passes for people with disabilities who have jobs.

Rehab’s director of communications and public affairs, Kathleen O’Meara, said the Government must recognise the “dire situation” of many people with disabilities in Budget 2018.

Meanwhile, a separate study on older individuals with intellectual disabilities found that only 30% of those who changed homes were involved in the decision and only 20% viewed alternative options.

The findings were presented at an international summit on ageing with an intellectual disability in Trinity College Dublin yesterday.

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