“One for everyone in the audience” Budget ’18 leaves an ocean of unmet need in disability
Today’s budget will not stop the rising wave of poverty for people with disabilities, said the Disability Federation of Ireland, DFI.
The budget was characterised as “one for everyone in the audience” by DFI. They suggest that instead of spreading resources thinly and ineffectively, budgets should make a real difference for those living with the most inequality. Currently many of these are people with a disability.
“There is a crisis in crumbling disability services with the same root cause as the housing crisis,” said DFI’s Deputy CEO, Allen Dunne. “During the recession support was severely cut and has never recovered.”
We see the evidence in a disability specific rising wave of poverty. The consistent poverty rate for people with disabilities has been rising not falling as the economy improves; it rose from 14% to 22% in 2015 alone. “The €5 a week on Disability Allowance is welcome but falls far short of the €20 increase we deemed necessary”, said Allen Dunne.
Ironically the crisis in disability services is largely hidden from public view due to the crumbling services. For example:
- People with disabilities who would lead productive and independent lives are trapped in their homes, residential homes or nursing homes due to a lack of Personal Assistant hours. Budget 2018 makes no mention of funding for PA and Home Supports.
- 7,600 people with disabilities are on the social housing waiting list, so even if the extra 4,000 social housing units announced in Budget 2018 were allocated for people with disabilities it would not be enough.
- The budget is silent on making houses accessible in the private rental sector.
- 1 in 4 people do not use public transport because they do not find it accessible. A lack of fully accessible public transport means people with disabilities cannot get out.
- Chronic underfunding of assistive technologies stops people from participating in their community.
DFI pointed to the need for an investment in a dramatic overhaul of disability services and our dated approach to them. In the long run this will lead to more fulfilling lives for people with disabilities and savings for the taxpayer. “The interests of the two groups are one and the same” said DFI’s Deputy CEO.
There are over 640,000 people living in Ireland today with a disability. Four out of five acquired their disability during their working lives and another 56,000 will be diagnosed with a disability this year alone. There is no “Them” and “Us” in disability, it is in all our interests to address this issue properly”.
- The increase in funding in education to support children with disabilities,
- The increase in 1,800 posts in frontline health services,
- The reduction in prescription charges from €2.50 to €2.00.
We will welcome getting further details on these and other measures.
Summary of Key Disability Budget Points
- Telephone allowance of €2.50/week for those on fuel allowance and living alone allowance. No discussion of what kind of phone this would cover.
- Increase in Disability Payments of €5/week
- Extend the fuel allowance season by 1 week.
- Increased funding for the Free Travel Scheme
- Prescription charge for those on the medical card reduced to €2, monthly cap reduced to €20.
- Monthly threshold for Drug payment scheme reduced from €144 to €134.
- €55 million increase in NTPF.
- €90 Million for an access plan to help people access care.
- €40 million for increased investment in primary care. No details as of yet.
- €15 Million for transition programmes for school leavers with disabilities
- €35 million for Mental Health, to implement the Vision for Change (clarification is being sought on this figure)
- 1,800 front-line health service personnel to be recruited across the acute, mental health, disability, primary and community care sectors
- 10 NEPS psychologists will be recruited in 2018.
- €2 million for a pilot scheme for in-school speech and language therapy.
- 100 extra teachers for implement of the new special education teaching model
- 230 extra teachers in special school and special classes
- 1,000 new SNAs
- Up to 400 homes to be provided in 2018 for people with specific needs.
- Funding for housing adaptation grants increased to €53 million to fund up to 11,000 grants for people with disabilities and older people.
- €1.9 billion allocated overall to housing.
- 3,800 new social houses to be in 2018 by approved housing bodies and local authorities.
- €149m on the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme.
- €18m increase in homeless services to over €116m.
- Plans to accelerate social housing delivery from 2019.
- €500m extra to result in 3,000 extra new build social houses by 2021.
- Extra €75m funding to Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, phase two.
- €750m funding available for commercial investment in housing.
- €3 million in funding for the Decision Support Service, a key part of the Assisted Decision Making Act 2015.
- €1 million additional funding to the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme.
- Further investment in Family Resource Centres
- A VAT refund scheme for charities will be introduced, allowing them to reclaim a portion of their VAT costs based on the level of non-public funding they receive