National Economic Dialogue must address the real issues and deliver tangible results for people with disabilities
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Tuesday 14th July 2015 - The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) are one of a number of organisations invited by Government to attend the ‘National Economic Dialogue’ in Dublin Castle on Thursday and Friday this week. The organisation is looking forward to the opportunity to participate in what hopefully will be meaningful discussions about the myriad of challenges facing people with disabilities all around the country, as well as their families and carers.
John Dolan, CEO of DFI said today “This ‘National Economic Dialogue’ must address the real issues and deliver tangible results for the nearly 600,000 people with disabilities living in Ireland, while also addressing the needs of families and carers. The National Disability Strategy (NDS) commits to ‘providing an opportunity for all our citizens to participate fully in this society’. This is simply not happening as a direct result of the reduction in services and income for people with disabilities over the past seven years. Our document Disability Federation of Ireland’s Review of the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan 2013-2015 has highlighted that there has been very little progress in the implementation of this plan. Indeed, the plan has failed to protect the essential services and supports that people with disabilities require to live ordinary lives in their communities.”
He continued “The parties of the present Government made a commitment in the course of the last election campaign, where they stated that disability was its number one social justice priority. This commitment has clearly not been fulfilled. This Government has one final opportunity in the autumn budget to meet its stated commitment to the disability community, and to leave a positive legacy.”
The current Government has introduced the following cuts and deficiencies to disability services and supports since 2008:
• Cuts in HSE funding for disability services over the period from 2008 to 2013 of 9.4%.
• A total of 1,103 people with disabilities on a waiting list for physiotherapy.
• A total of 674 people with disabilities waiting for occupational therapy services.
• A total of 366 people with disabilities waiting for speech and language therapy services.
• A growing waiting list of 207 people for Personal Assistant services and 296 people for home help services.
• There has been a loss of over 1,200 staff from mental health services since 2008. Staffing levels are currently only at 77% of what was recommended in A Vision for Change, and just at over 50% in child and adolescent mental health services of what was recommended.
• Disability Allowance, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, and Carer’s Allowance cut by an average of 8% from 2009.
• Budget 2015 did not increase primary social welfare rates which means, in effect, a cut in the real value of social welfare payments due to increases in prices (an average increase of 5.1% from 2010 until May 2015).
• A cut of 19% in the Respite Care Grant in 2013.
• The Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant were completely axed in February 2013.
• The Housing Adaptation Grant scheme’s funding was cut by 56% from 2010 to 2014 and restrictions to eligibility criteria for the scheme were introduced in 2014.
There have also been a range of cuts in mainstream supports from 2009 to 2014 that have had a direct impact of people with disabilities:
• Withdrawal of discretionary medical cards during a review of all cardholders in 2012.
• Fuel allowance payment reduced by 18.7% (€120) per annum.
• The Drugs Payment Scheme threshold has increased by 44% since 2010 from €100 to €144.
• Increased prescription charge for medical cardholders fivefold to €2.50 per item. Increased the monthly prescription cap threshold for families by 22% to €25.
• Abolished telephone allowance and the Bereavement Grant.
• Replaced the health levy and income levy introduced in Budget 2009 with the Universal Social Charge in Budget 2011. This amounts to approx. €1000 per year for a person earning the equivalent of the living wage.
• Supplementary Welfare Allowance cut by 11% in period 2009-2015.
• Child Benefit reduced by 21% (€36) per month for the 1st and 2nd child, and by 36% (€73) per month for the 3rd child.
Mr. Dolan went on to say, “This remarkable list of cuts and deficiencies in services, dating back to 2008, is unacceptable. These are not just statistics – they provide an indication of the real hardship experienced by people with disabilities over the past seven years. For instance, people not at work due to illness or disability are now five times more likely to live in consistent poverty than those at work. Enough is enough!”
He concluded “As recently as last month, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that people with disabilities in Ireland had been disproportionately affected by austerity measures in the areas of social welfare, housing, health and education. Ireland cannot have a sustainable economy without having a functioning social infrastructure for people with disabilities. The only question now is whether Ireland’s recovery will include or deliberately exclude its disabled people and their families. I look forward to having meaningful discussions about these issues at the ‘National Economic Dialogue’ later this week”
Note: You can view our Review of the National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan 2013-2015 on http://www.disability-federation.ie/index.php?uniqueID=11063
John Dolan, CEO 086 795 7467
Allen Dunne, Deputy CEO 086 850 2112
Jacqueline Grogan, Communications Officer 086 388 2600