Dozens of disability activists have staged a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin in rejection of proposed welfare payment reform.
The rally was organised against non-finalised proposals in a Green Paper which include a new tiered allowance which would link levels of payments to a determination on capacity to work and the nature of the disability.
Disability activists believe the plans are a “degrading and humiliating” value judgment that would give the impression that some people are falsifying the extent of their impairment or illness.
They further argue it would be a breach of the UN Convention on Human Rights for disabled people by seeking to implement a medical model approach rather than a social model.
Organisers also said disabled people are excluded from work due to discrimination and that the tiered system would not foster increased employment.
Disability Power Ireland chair Maryam Madani said there was “shock, outrage and distress” among the disability community and that it had left some “in tears”.
She said: “Despite everything we’ve been fighting for for decades, an abomination such as this Green Paper has come to exist.
“We know that the proposals exist solely to get more disabled people off disability allowance, which should be a universal support given to all disabled people to cover the additional cost of disability.”
She added: “We are tired of being undermined.”
The Access 4 All group noted that while the proposed highest rate would be €265.30, the pandemic unemployment payment during Covid-19 was €350.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the Government should withdraw the proposal.
He said: “Basically, people would be put through the wringer to see ‘Are you disabled enough to qualify for the payment and we’ll put you on three different levels’.
“People with disabilities and campaigning organisations have been absolutely clear they’re against this and we’re saying the Government has to withdraw this paper and this proposal.”
The Department of Social Protection said the proposals are designed for public consultation and no final decision has been made.
It has identified a “twin challenge” of insulating people who cannot work from experiencing poverty and supporting a higher rate of employment for disabled people.
The department rejected that it was a cost-cutting measure, stating the changes proposed would cost an additional €130 million per year.
It said many people would see “a significant increase of over €45” per week.
In a statement, it said: “Nobody will lose their entitlement to a disability payment arising from the Green Paper proposals, nor will they see that payment level reduced.
“In addition, engagement with public employment services will be on a voluntary basis. ”
The department said it was committed to enhancing supports for people with disabilities and that increased payments were among measures taken in Budget 2024.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has extended public consultation on the Green Paper until March 15th. – PA