Students have demonstrated outside Leinster House in protest at the Government’s decision to axe a support that helps young people with disabilities gain post-school training.
The HSE-funded Rehabilitative Training Programme was available to approximately 2,300 young people who have a disability.
The scheme is geared to supporting school leavers with disabilities to develop a range of skills that will support them in developing independence and progressing to further education or employment.
It provided a special allowance of €31.80 per week to those in the Programme, which has now been cut.
The Rehab Group has said the allowance was a “clear recognition of the fact that these young people need extra support during this difficult transition into further education or work” and that the cut will have “a devastating impact” on those who need specialist supports.
Kathleen O’Meara, Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, 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,” Ms O’Meara said.
Rehab said about 400 students hoping to access rehabilitative training courses with the 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.
“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,” Ms O’Meara said.
“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 Minister of Health, Simon Harris and the HSE to reinstate this vital payment as a matter of urgency,” she said.
The axing of the allowance was criticised by Fianna Fáil, which has a confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael in government.
Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, FF spokesperson on disability, had previously said she found it “disheartening that the government would allow this important, and relatively inexpensive scheme, to be discontinued”.
“This programme is seen as a stepping stone for people with disabilities to move from the education system into a more work-focused environment. It equips them with new skills – both from a social and employment perspective – but it also gives them a confidence boost and a familiarity with a workplace setting,” she said.