Rehab Group pre-budget submission calls for increased social welfare and funding to help people with disabilities to enter the workforce, as a way out of poverty

A wide-ranging survey of people with disabilities carried out by the Rehab Group reveals the true scale of disability and poverty in Ireland.

The survey of more than 300 people, supported by Rehab Group, revealed many are skipping meals, going without medicine, cutting back on heating, and cannot afford to go out because their disability payments are too small.

Some report having to choose between food and fuel because they can’t afford both, while others report having to forego their medication because of prohibitive prescription charges and trying to survive on a weekly Disability Allowance of just €198.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed (73pc) said they are dependent on others for their living arrangements- despite more than 63pc stating they would prefer to live independently.

Money was cited as the biggest obstacle to independence in 70pc of cases, with 30pc citing a lack of suitable accommodation and 13pc blaming too few personal assistance hours.

Almost 20pc said they had difficulties finding suitable accommodation over the last two years- with some waiting up to 15 years to be housed.

Many also said they are forced to spend an unacceptable proportion of their allowance on vital transport, with more than 40pc saying they spend between €11 and €90 a week on transport.

Almost half of those surveyed said that transport always’ or ‘usually’ limited their independence, contravening the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure the personal mobility of people with disabilities.

A total of 90% of recipients surveyed said they were not in receipt of the mobility allowance, but 60% said they needed it.

The survey also demonstrated how more than 70pc of recipients do not have a job- and the majority who want to find employment (66pc) report that employers overlook them and are unwilling to provide them with the supports they need.

More than 30pc of people surveyed believed that ‘people don’t want to hire people with disabilities’ while 20pc believe that workplaces are not welcoming of people with disabilities. More than a fifth surveyed had refused a place on a training course in the last year as they were worried about surviving without their benefits.

Rehab Group is calling for an increase of €20 in Disability Allowance as a matter of urgency to provide an adequate minimum income, alongside an automatic entitlement to a medical card and an end to prescription charges. 
The organisation is also calling for supports to get more people with a disability into the workforce, as a way out of poverty by providing adequate training and personal assistant hours.

Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, 
Kathleen O’Meara said the rights of people with disabilities to participate equally in the workforce have now been legally enshrined by the ratification this year of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities- but in reality very little has changed.

Ms O’Meara said the Government also remained ‘selectively blind to the true cost of disability in Ireland’.

“A Joint Oireachtas Committee reported last month the average cost of living with a disability is more than €200 weekly – and this is before you even begin to include hourly fees charged by personal assistants. The Irish Government finally committed to recognising the rights of people with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families when they ratified the UNCRP last March after a ten year wait, yet the majority of people we surveyed said that they found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to live on their allowance, struggle to live independently or access employment or vital travel,” she said.

“The way out of poverty for many people with a disability is through employment. There are 600,000 people living with a disability in Ireland, many of whom have vital skills and experience who, with support, could make a valuable contribution to the workforce. With the economy reaching capacity, it is time employers, and the government, provided the supports necessary to allow people with disabilities to participate fully in the community and to the economy.”

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