People with disabilities often find their obstacles are as much financial as physical, and with that in mind, the Disability Federation of Ireland wants the budget to:
Ensure adequate income:
DFI is looking for a €20 increase in the disability allowance, currently €188 per week, and for the €1,350 respite care grant to be restored to its pre-recession level of €1,700.
“Having a disability brings extra costs,” says DFI policy and research officer Joanne McCarthy.
“You can’t shop around like someone else. You can’t get around the same. You may need a special diet. These are basics but they’re very hard to afford on a basic welfare payment.”
Help people find, and stay in, work. Some ‘employment activation’ schemes — in particular those under the Youth Guarantee — are not open to people with disabilities.
Improve access to aid:
The DFI wants all schemes open to all, wants a disability tax credit introduced, similar to the Blind Person’s tax credit of €1,650 annually, and says people with disabilities should be allowed hold on to the medical card after they enter the workforce.
“Often they have the capacity for work but they can’t afford to work. You forfeit your medical card if you go back to work and that just isn’t sustainable for many people,” said Ms McCarthy.
Back independent living:
Housing adaption grants have been cut severely in recent years and DFI says an extra €30m injection is needed to start clearing the backlog of applicants. Similarly, they say an extra €15m a year for the next three years must be pumped into the provision of personal assistants. “The personal assistant service is a very cheap model of service compared to residential services.”
More moves from residential care into the community:
DFI says €30m extra per year is needed to deliver on the promise to move people from congregated settings into the community.
“Even if the current target of moving 150 people per year were met, it would take another 20 years to decongregate everyone,” noted Ms McCarthy.
Invest in healthcare:
DFI wants the disability health budget increased by €50m a year for the next three years but says mainstream health services must also be improved.
“People with disabilities are heavy users of mainstream health services but they’re on waiting lists like everyone else so their health needs are not being addressed. We’re looking for a target to cut waiting lists for both specialist and mainstream services by half by 2017.”
The country’s 187,000 family carers would love a major leap forward in supports in Budget 2016 but they’ll consider it a victory if they can just make up lost ground.
While the carer’s allowance has not been cut in recent years, many carers do not qualify and associated aids have been hammered.
“The Government has made a lot of the fact that they haven’t cut what they call ‘core’ welfare payments but it’s all core to carers because it’s all essential,” says Catherine Cox of the Carers’ Association.
The work of carers is core to society, Ms Cox points out. “We’ve got an ageing population, plus we’re seeing a move from institutional to home care for people who have long-term illness or disability which is something we welcome.
“But there is an issue if the Government isn’t providing the funding to back that.”
Restore respite care grant.
“The respite grant is used by some carers for respite care, by some to pay their bills or to pay for special diets and incontinence pads so it’s a very important payment,” said Ms Cox.
Reverse the household benefits package cuts:
The package lost 40% of its value over the last five budgets but most dramatically, the telephone allowance was removed last year.
Move carers on to contributory state pensions:
Many carers excluded from the paid workforce because of their caring duties reach pension age to find they do not have enough PRSI contributions to qualify for a contributory State pension.
Extend transition period after caring:
Carers only get carer’s allowance for six weeks after the loved one they cared for dies or moves to residential care.
“We believe it should be extended to 12 months to gives the person time to get over their bereavement but also look at what other options are there if they want to get back to the paid workforce,” said Ms Cox.
“They do that for people on the back-to-work schemes so why not for carers who have saved the State so much over the years that they have been caring?”
Invest in therapy for children with disabilities:
“We have children on lists for two years and more waiting for vital therapies like speech and language therapy. It’s a massive pressure on parents caring for them and it’s getting worse,” added Ms Cox.
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