Increase of 32k people on disability allowance ‘very disturbing’

An increase of 32,000 people going onto disability allowance over the past five years has been described as “very disturbing” by the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), which also says the high number of applications rejected is “very disheartening”.

New Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection figures provided to the Irish Examiner show that, last year, 29,491 disability allowance claims were decided, of which 12,022 applications were disallowed — just over 40%.

However, of the 4,256 disability allowance appeals decided on by the Social Welfare Appeals Office last year, just under 70% were allowed, with just 28% of the original rejections upheld.

In recent years, the relatively high rate of initial refusal for the payment, and the high number of successful appeals has drawn criticism from the DFI.

The number of recipients of Disability Allowance at the end of last year was 133,929 and 23,657 Disability Allowance applications were received in 2017 by the department.

Joan O’Donnell of the DFI said the figures shows the difficulties faced by many people with a disability.

“It is very disturbing to see the number of people on disability allowance rise by 32,145 since 2012 while overall unemployment is dropping,” she said .

“The ‘at risk of poverty’ rate amongst people with disabilities was 46% in 2016 according to the CSO most recent figures — behind each figure is a person, whose life if being held back by structural inequalities.

“We need a systems-wide approach and political will to improve people’s quality of life and level of inclusion.”

“People apply for disability allowance, which is a means-tested payment that is difficult to get: not out of choice, but because they have nowhere else to go. It is very disheartening to see year-on-year that the high level of applications that are turned down had not improved.”


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