Disability allowance for under-18s should be axed - report

Expert group report says payment is causing welfare dependency



Disability allowance payments to under-18s should be ended, according to unpublished expert group reports being considered by the Government.

The recommendations are likely to prove highly controversial. A previous plan to stop the paying the disability allowance to under 18s was abandoned by the Government within hours of it being announced in the 2012 Budget due to fierce opposition.

By way of compensation, both reports recommend extending payment of the Domiciliary Care Allowance to families of people with disabilities from 16 until 18.

The move would save the State a modest amount of money - in the region of €10 million - and affect more than 1,700 teenagers.

At present, the weekly maximum rate of disability allowance is €188. The domiciliary care allowance rate is worth less, at €309.50 per month.

The two reports – expected to be discussed at Cabinet tomorrow – argue that the move would encourage younger disabled people stay in education, improve their chances of employment and help prevent welfare dependency.

The recommendations are contained in two reports: the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare, chaired by Ita Mangan, and a Domiciliary Care Allowance Review Group, chaired by former senior civil servant Sylda Langford.

The Mangan report says the most compelling reason for stopping the disability allowance for 17 and 18-year-old is “strong evidence that can encourage early school-leaving and generate welfare dependency.”

“This creates poverty risks and a higher likelihood of suffering social exclusion,” the report adds.

But a majority of submissions from groups representing people with disabilities to the advisory group were strongly opposed to the change.

They argued that it failed to take into account the extra expenses associated with disabilities . Groups also argued that the gap between the disability allowance and the domiciliary care allowance would lead to a significant shortfall in come.

However, the advisory group report states that calculating income gains or losses is complicated by the fact that extending the non mean-tested domiciliary care allowance would allow many families to continue to receive benefits such as the carer’s allowance or household benefits.

The same report also considered cutting the disability allowance for those aged 18 to 24 from €188 to €100. This would align the payment with jobseekers’ allowance rate that is paid to unemployed under-25s.

Instead, the group opted to defer any decision until there is further research into supports required by young disabled people and barriers to entering work or training.

The domiciliary care allowance - paid to around 25,000 families - is the main focus of the second report, chaired by Sylda Langford.

The payment is provided to families where there is a child who requires continuous care and education. It costs the State about €100 million a year.

The operation of the scheme has proved controversial, with many families of children with autism, in particular, claiming they are being wrongly refused the payment.

The Langford report recommends greater transparency over the way decisions are made over who is entitled to the allowance, along with greater clarity over definitions of who the payment applies to.

It also opted against the opening up the scheme to a wider number of families by lowering the definition of care required and introducing tiered payments.

Instead, the group recommended retaining the requirement that stipulates a “higher level of additional care”.