Disability Federation of Ireland Submission to the Department of Social Protection

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Recommendations for Budget 2015 

June 2014

 

 1

 

 

Budget 2015 must:

1. Ensure that all people with disabilities have an adequate income that supports them to live with dignity in accordance with their human rights.

  • DFI calls for an increase of €20 to Disability Allowance as an interim measure to introduce an adequate income for people with disabilities that reflects the level of at risk poverty and deprivation they experience and the extra cost of living with a disability in Ireland.
  • Supplementary benefits such as Household Benefits Package, domiciliary Care Allowance and Free Travel Scheme, must be protected. This must include sustainable and long term solutions to protect people with disabilities from the impact of future budgetary decisions such as the introduction of water charges, beyond yearly budget cycles.

2. Provide supports to mainstream activation programmes and support services on par with others.

  • Budget 2015 must grant access to people with disabilities who wish to seek employment to Intreo offices and services on par with their non-disabled peers, regardless of the payment they are on.  This must include Pathways to Work once introduced.
  • Young people with disabilities must be given access to all programmes that sit under the Youth Guarantee on par with their peers. They must be supported to participate where necessary.
  • This must include Jobsbridge Momentum  and so forth.
  • Introduce a payment akin to partial capacity benefit that supports people with disabilities to pursue self-employment.
  • Income/employment support interaction needs to ensure that social protection benefits system allows people to do occasional work on a self-employed basis without losing benefits.
  • Controls in the system need to be balanced with the creation of  enough flexibility to meet the needs of people who need to come on and off benefits because of the episodic nature of their disability and those who need to be partially employed.
  • Introduce tax credits to support people with disabilities to earn an adequate income that raises them out of poverty and ensures that work pays, in recognition of the cost of living with a disability.


3. Ensure that services are robust enough to support people with disabilities to live with dignity.  This necessitates structural reforms including coordination with other government departments, proper data collection on the status of people with disabilities in Ireland to inform and advise policy decisions.

  • The Department of Social Protection to work with colleagues in the Department of Health to ensure that the current review of medical card eligibility will grant cards based on need, not income, or time limits.
  • DFI calls for the introduction of disability–adjusted poverty and inequality estimates and equivalence scales, that can inform a more realistic payment for disabled people that can allow them to live in dignity.

 

 

Introduction

The adverse impact of cuts and withdrawals imposed on people with disabilities since 2008 have pushed many individuals with disabilities and families with disabled members to a point where they do not have adequate income and can no longer live with dignity.  Reductions in income supports and activation measures represent part of a larger picture of cumulative reductions in both disability-specific and mainstream services that have had devastating effects.

Budget 2015 must address the level of poverty and deprivation people with disabilities experience so that they may exercise their human rights in accordance with the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities and the aspirations of the National Disability Strategy.  Disability is a societal issue affecting many families in Ireland and impacting on income and participation in the labour market.

This budget must address the widening income inequality gap and the  relationship between economic inequality and wider measures of personal and societal wellbeing  by looking at three pillars of Active inclusion developed by the European Commission in 2008.

Active Inclusion requires adequate income supports, inclusive labour markets and access to quality services and the Department of Social Protection must address these three issues in the upcoming budget.  Countries that have adopted this approach have done best in the crisis, and Ireland needs to follow suit if we are to achieve any of our targets to lift more people out of poverty in accordance with Europe 2020 and support people to live with dignity.
 

1.  Budget 2015 must ensure that all people with disabilities have an adequate income that supports them to live with dignity in accordance with their human rights.

Poverty and basic deprivation rates for people with disabilities continue to rise while at the same time social services are being reduced.  This is resulting greater deprivation and poverty than any statistical analysis can show.  The reality of living in Ireland with a disability at this time is further masked by data gathering that does not take account of the extra costs associated with living with a disabling condition or chronic illness.  This means that it is impossible to accurately estimate at risk of poverty rates.  Too many people are being squeezed beyond endurance and concentrating all their energies on day to day survival, which takes them further from maintaining good health and wellbeing.

The Social Portrait of People with Disabilities (2011) points clearly to the fact that "the at-risk of poverty rate, which takes no account of differences in household expenditure associated with the disability, will tend to understate the true level of economic disadvantage of people with disabilities.”

The research concludes that  people with disabilities experience standards of living that are just as deprived as for people below the income threshold with no disability as it costs approximately one third of an average income to live in Ireland with a disability[3].

Since this document was written, we have had three harsh budgets, which have impacted hugely on disabled people.

  • We acknowledge the fact that there was a narrowing of the income poverty differentials and deprivation gap between those with a disability and those without between 2007 and 2011.
  • The 2012 SILC notes a decline of 7.4% in the equivilised disposable income for those not at work due to illness or disability between 2010 and 2012.
  • However, this was due to a levelling downwards in conditions, and poverty and deprivation rates were still substantially higher for people with disabilities in 2011 than for other groups[4].
  • Apart from the cost of living with a disability, the cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living in general terms, has increased by 3.25% while in the same period basic social welfare rate has fallen by around 5%, excluding the Christmas bonus  Since 2008[5]
  • There is a growing gap between the incomes and cost of living of families dependent on social welfare.

These statistics do not dig deeply enough to reveal the real monetary impact of the reduction of supplementary benefits, the impact of reduction in services, rent supplement and the effect of the review of the medical card has had on the lives of people with disabilities and their families.  Amongst people who do not have a disability, the statistics indicate that people do not have an adequate income and the numbers unable to afford basic essentials in increasing[6].  People with disabilities are undoubtedly suffering more, finding it harder to afford adequate food, clothing, heating, or to engage in social activity.

We can no longer accept the argument that the protection of basic payments equates with the protection of basic income.  Supplementary income supports are part of people’s basic income, and must be protected and bolstered to reflect growing need to pay for extra medical, transport and living costs that must be met, just as these very services are being stripped back.

People must be granted an adequate income to live with dignity until such time that the systems that monitor poverty and deprivation are updated to inform decision making within the budgetary process.

  • DFI calls for an increase of €20[7] to Disability Allowance as an interim measure to introduce an adequate income for people with disabilities that reflects the level of at risk poverty and deprivation they experience and the extra cost of living with a disability in Ireland.
  • Supplementary benefits such as Household Benefits Package, domiciliary Care Allowance and Free Travel Scheme, must be protected. This must include sustainable and long term solutions to protect people with disabilities from the impact of future budgetary decisions such as the introduction of water charges, beyond yearly budget cycles.

 

2.  Budget 2015 must prioritise people with disabilities who wish to access employment and further education programmes.

Even at the height of the boom, when long-term unemployment was at an all-time low, the percentage of people with disabilities in employment was only half that for those without disabilities.[8]  By 2011, only  30% of adults with disabilities were active in the labour market compared to 61.9% of other adults. Evidence from the Social Portrait of People with Disabilities shows that where possible people with disabilities are willing to work if the conditions are right.  Data from the National Disability Survey (2006) demonstrated that 37 per cent of people with disabilities who are not at work would be interested in a job, which corresponds to over 40,000 people who wish to be more active in the labour market.

It is appreciated that the economic and jobs situation we are now in creates new challenges for everyone; yet while the economy thrived, people with disabilities were left on to live life on the margins and this situation cannot continue; the cost to people’s lives and to the economy is too great[9].  EU policy acknowledges that the social is in the economic , and Budget 2015 take action to ameliorate the effects of long term social exclusion[10].  Therefore, labour market activation needs to “include all those of working age who are able to work, not just the unemployed” [11]

This must include major structural reforms such as the introduction of Pathways to Work which must be skilled and resourced well to empower people with disabilities to participate in the labour force. 

Ireland now has the third highest number of people on disability benefit between the ages of 20 and 34: 2.8% compared to an OCED average of 1.5%[12].  Young people with disabilities continue to be left behind as there is no overt policy to help people transition from school to the workforce, with projects tending to reflect active inclusion as a by-product of their activities rather than as an objective[13].  Young people with disabilities are less likely to emigrate or stay in education longer as compared to their non disabled cohorts, leading to further structural inequalities that leave people with disabilities behind.

As 85% of working-age disability is acquired, and households headed by people with a disability are twice as likely to experience unemployment than those that are not headed by a person with a disability, this issue cannot go unaddressed if we are to reduce poverty in Ireland[14]. Social welfare payments to these households are no more effective at reducing poverty than payments to other groups and that activation measures need to protect these households from poverty[15].  It is also significant that over half of those living in jobless households are either children or adults with a disability.  As Government is committed to reducing child poverty by 70,000 by 2020, the income and activation of this group must be addressed in a sustainable way that includes affordable childcare measures.

People with disabilities must not become the new underclass of workers; they must be afforded an adequate working wage.  The risk of getting caught in the category of the working poor in low paid, precarious work, is high for people with disabilities, whose educational backgrounds are often poorer than for those without a disability.

  • Budget 2015 must grant access to people with disabilities who wish to seek employment to Intreo offices and services on par with their non-disabled peers, regardless of the payment they are on.  This must include Pathways to Work once introduced.
  • Young people with disabilities must be given access to all programmes that sit under the Youth Guarantee on par with their peers. They must be supported to participate where necessary.  This must include Jobsbridge[16] Momentum[17] and so forth.
  • Introduce a payment akin to partial capacity benefit that supports people with disabilities to pursue self-employment.
  • Income/employment support interaction needs to ensure that social protection benefits system allows people to do occasional work on a self-employed basis without losing benefits.
  • Controls in the system need to be balanced with the creation of  enough flexibility to meet the needs of people who need to come on and off benefits because of the episodic nature of their disability and those who need to be partially employed.
  • Introduce tax credits to support people with disabilities to earn an adequate income that raises them out of poverty and ensures that work pays, in recognition of the cost of living with a disability.

3. Access to Quality Services

As disability is a societal issue and every aspect of living cannot be provided for under the auspices of one government department, access to quality services requires that all government departments work in tandem to develop a budget that delivers best outcomes for all.  The level of poverty people live in and  the impact of budgetary decisions must also be measurable across government departments.

Interdepartmental working:

This becomes very evident when we look more closely at disability proofing government policies, and examine the cumulative effects of cuts in recent budgets that have undermined the autonomy of people with disabilities.  It is important that “Silo-thinking must be replaced by strong coordination and integration of policies and services “ according to the OECD report Sickness, Disability and Work (2008) in order to improve the position of people with disabilities.

This is most topical in relation to the retention of the medical card.  People must be able to retain their medical card and move fluidly with the confidence that services and supports are there when required, as recommended by the OECD.  Access to health care needs to be improved by making the entitlement to a Medical Card independent of benefit status and linked to need in the new review.  The Department of Social Protection has a significant interest in ensuring that this happens.

The Department of Social Protection to work with colleagues in the Department of Health to ensure that the current review of medical card eligibility will grant cards based on need, not income, or time limits.

Monitoring impact of Budget decisions:

We welcome the monitoring mechanisms that the Department has put in place, namely the Social Inclusion Monitor and the Social Impact Assessment of the Main Welfare and Direct Tax Measures.  For the Social Impact Assessment to be effective in its aim of strengthening the implementation of national social targets and sub targets on child poverty and jobless households, all adjustments considered for any of the disability payments must be considered in terms of the cost of disability and include all payments across government departments, including medical card eligibility. 

Neither SILC data, or the SWITCH  model take account of the extra costs of living with a disability however, and DFI believes that the poverty and basic deprivation that people with disabilities are living in in Ireland is greatly underestimated[18].  These findings, which have been ignored in recent budgets have two very significant implications: they clearly point to the case for the introduction of disability-adjusted payments that recognise the loss of earnings due to disability.  They also have huge implications for how we measure poverty in Ireland as no current methods of data collection take account of this anomaly in income.  Unitl such time as we have a greater understanding of these issues, it will be impossible to advance reform of payments for adults of working age.

DFI calls for the introduction of disability–adjusted poverty and inequality estimates and equivalence scales, that can inform a more realistic payment for disabled people that can allow them to live in dignity.

Conclusion:  

The economic cannot no longer take precedence over the social goals of creating a society that works for all and supports everyone to experience wellbeing.  Budget 2015 must invest in people so that they can participate socially and economically.  The cost of long term exclusion far outweighs the cost of inclusion in the short term.  People must be given the means to live with dignity and in accordance with their human rights and to access programmes and services as equal citizens of Ireland.

For further information on the content of this submission, please contact Joan O’Donnell, joanodonnell@disability-federation.ie.

Disability Federation of Ireland

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) represents the interests and the expectations of people with disabilities to be fully included in Irish society.  It comprises organisations that represent and support people with disabilities and disabling conditions.        

The vision of DFI is that Irish society is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions so that they can exercise their full civil, economic, social and human rights and that they are enabled to reach their full potential in life.  DFI’s mission is to act as an advocate for the full and equal inclusion of people with disabilities and disabling conditions in all aspects of their lives. 

There are over 120 organisations within membership or as associates of DFI. DFI also works with a growing number of organisations and groups around the country that have a significant disability interest, mainly from the statutory and voluntary sectors.

DFI provides:

  • Information
  • Training and Support
  • Networking
  • Advocacy and Representation
  • Research and Policy Development / Implementation
  • Organisation and Management Development

DFI works on the basis that disability is a societal issue and so works with Government, and across the social and economic strands and interests of society.

Disability Federation of Ireland, Fumbally Court, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8

Tel: 01-4547978, Fax: 01-4547981

Email: info@disability-federation.ie  Web: www.disability-federation.ie

Union of Voluntary Organisations of People with Disabilities trading as The Disability Federation of Ireland is a company limited by guarantee not having share capital, registered in

Dublin. Registered No. 140948, CHY No 6177


[3]   Cullinan, J., Gannon, B. and Lyons, S. (2011), Estimating the extra cost of living for people with disabilities. Health Econ., 20: 582–599. doi: 10.1002/hec.1619

[4]   McGinnity, F., Russell, H., Watson, D. Kingston, G., Kelly, E. (2014), Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession In Ireland, The Equality Authority.

[5]    Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, 2014. Budget 2014: Minimum Essential Budget Standards Impact Briefing. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-cR3V9wzdlJSnpCVVRsSTVBeXc/edit?pli=1.

[6] Callan T, Ed(2013) Budget perspectives 2014, ESRI.

[7] This is a gesture towards the €40 per week estimated as a reasonable cost of disability payment by NDA in2006.

[9]   Eurofound (2012) Active Inclusion of Young People with Disabilities or Health Problems

[10] Europe 2020

[11] (Watson and Maitre 2013). 

[13] Active Inclusion of Young people with Disabilities or Health Problems, (2010) Eurofound

[14] Europe 2020.

[15] Watson and Maitre (2013) 

[16] We welcome the changes made to include people on DA for this scheme but people on Blind pension are still excluded.

[17] We recognise that this is a Department of Education led scheme but the Youth Guarantee is with DSP, therefore DSP has vested interest in working with the Department of Education and Skills on this issue.

[18] Zaidi A, Burchardt T. 2005. Comparing incomes when needs differ: equivalization for the extra costs of disability. Review of Income and Wealth 51: 89–114.

 

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