Michael Noonan gave an indication last night the cuts in disability allowances will be reviewed.
Patrick Nulty cited it as one of the reasons he voted against the Budget. But it was only one of a myriad of reasons. It was very clear from his long statement last night that the tipping point had been reached for him as soon as he was elected. Many of his relatively newly-elected colleagues in Labour were very unhappy with him last night, contending he had not bee upfront to them as to his true intentions when elected.
The cuts to disability allowance essentially removed the allowance from 16 and 17 year-olds. However, it was for the cohort between 18 and 24 that the real damage was done. The intention behind the change was to put them on the same footing as the unemployed of the same age, with reductions to encourage ‘labour activation’ – essentially less money to compel people to do job training or find employment.
That’s all very well for disabled people who can find work (and of course it will always be harder for them to find it). But there are many who can never hope to work. A Fine Gael backbench TD cited those with cerebral palsy, severe Down’s Syndrome and with more serious forms of autism. What the disabled allowance did was allow them to have an independent income, reduced their own familial dependency.
Cuts of €100 per week for 18 to 21 year olds and of €88 per week for 21 to 24 year olds were punitive. This time it was not just by the opposition which railed against it (it was a major theme for Fianna Fail) but also members of both Government parties. A multiplicity of TDS from Fine Gael and Labour spoke against the measures at meetings yesterday – with Fine Gael backbenchers feeling so exercised that a delegation of four TDs sought a meeting with Joan Burton last night.
Like a slowly incubating virus, sometimes the nasty shocks of a Budget take a little while to break the surface. With a slash and burn exercise, it is inevitable and unavoidable that there will be public and political recoil.
Here is a list of the potential banana skins identified so far. Some will be avoided, others may turn out to cause only minor ripples, while one or two may have lasting repercussions.
1. Cuts in disability allowance
2. VHI hikes as a result of charging for private beds
3. Cutting the fuel allowance season
4. Cuts in back to school allowance
5. Cuts in child benefit (but not as impactful)
6. Cuts in one parent payments
7. Abandonment of pward only rent reviews (politically embarrassing)
8. Retention of property taxes (another potential political embarrassment, given both parties insistence in opposition they would abolish them fortwith).
And there are probably more that will show their heads over the next few days.