People with disabilities suffering a ‘double recession’, say charities

The Government’s policy of austerity is increasing the risk of causing severe damage to Ireland’s social fabric, according to a group of charities representing people with disabilities and their carers.

Representatives of the seven organisations yesterday urged the Government to produce a new strategy to sustain public services in advance of next month’s budget, which is expected to place further pressure on existing services.

The group said the Programme for Government contained promises to ensure that “the quality of life of people with disabilities is enhanced”.

However, it says budgetary measures in the meantime have worsened their situation, with the sector having already experienced cuts of about 20% over recent years.

“Five successive years of cutbacks have undermined the independence of people with disabilities and diminished the supports they need to live ordinary lives, to enjoy individual autonomy and to participate in society as equals,” they said.

The groups represented were the Disability Federation of Ireland, Irish Rural Link, Carers’ Association, Older and Bolder, the National Youth Council of Ireland, The Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, and The Wheel.

They claim people with disabilities are suffering a double recession as their families have also been affected by general cutbacks.

The group called on the Government to halt any measures which would reduce the basic living standard of people with disabilities.

John Dolan, CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland, said that many organisations had also been hit by a sharp drop in fundraising revenues.

Patricia Conboy, CEO of Older and Bolder, described a €22m cut in home help services to the elderly last August as “indefensible”. She said 14% of all pensioners with a disability received no support services.

Meanwhile, Age Action yesterday delivered thousands of pre-budget petition postcards to Kathleen Lynch, the minister for older people, at Leinster House. The cards called on the Government to protect key supports for older people including the state pension, the household benefits package, and the medical card.

Age Action spokesman Eamonn Timmins said the charity had been surprised by the response to the campaign.

“Cuts to these supports would cause widespread hardship to people who have paid their taxes over their working lives and who now live in fear that their supports will be cut.”

A clear message to emerge from all the petitions was that many pensioners were struggling to survive on the basic pension, he said.

More in this section