Joanne attacks plans to cut disability grant

Disability rights advocate Joanne O’Riordan has slammed proposals to axe disability payments for under-18s and called on the Government to instead raise taxes for the rich.

Ms O’Riordan, who was born without limbs, forced the Government to tear up plans to cut the disability allowance for young people under the Coalition’s first budget.

However, a report released yesterday has again suggested that the weekly €188 payment for new claimants be axed, because it was encouraging “early school-leaving and welfare dependency”.

Instead, it recommends extending the domiciliary care allowance to families of 16- to 18-year-olds with disabilities, a payment which amounts to €309.50 per month.

The cut would save the State about €10m per year, but would see up to 1,700 teenagers lose over €440 a month.

The advisory group says changing the age threshold for the disability allowance “removes a disincentive for young people and may encourage them to stay in education, and in turn improve their chances of employment”.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she would consider the advisory group’s recommendations on tax and social welfare.

The group says the continued funding for 17- and 18-year-olds “creates poverty risks and a higher likelihood of suffering social exclusion”.

However, Ms O’Riordan, who turns 17 this month, said: “Other people with severe disabilities won’t be able to get a job.

“They will have to stay at home and be excluded. They’re [the Government] taking a stab at people with disability again.

“If they want to make people independent, why increase parents’ payments? This will make us more dependent on our carers.

“What about charging wealthier people walking around with millions in their pockets and not being taxed at all?”

The Cork teenager, who addressed a UN technology conference in New York last year and won a string of awards for her campaigning, previously wrote an open letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny which helped force a U-turn on disability cuts.

“What about taking away drivers for ministers? Would it hurt Enda to put his foot down on the pedal of a car? You can’t be dependent on your parents. This is going to make people [with disabilities] more dependent and people will resent the Government more.”

Ann O’Riordan, Joanne’s mother, said: “If you have a disability in this country, you’re not wanted here. They’re hitting the most vulnerable.”

Any proposed changes to the disability allowance are unlikely to be introduced before Budget 2014.

Ms Burton said the Government would consider the proposals “taking into account future developments in terms of the budgetary and fiscal situation as well as other work under way”.


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