Warning of dire effect of austerity on those with disabilities
Period after State emerges from bailout could be a time of even ‘greater hopelessness’, committee hears
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin TD: “Nobody should ever have to make a choice between education and their livelihood”.
The chief executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland has warned that the period after the State emerges from its austerity drive could be a time of even “greater hopelessness” for people with disabilities.
Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, John Dolan said supports for people with disabilities were threadbare and that demographic changes such as longer life expectancy were increasing the pressure on them. He said he had no sense there was any planning for the future and unless this was done, disabled people would see a “further withering of community infrastructure” and face a period of even “greater hopelessness”.
When cutbacks did eventually stop, it did not mean significant funds would immediately go back to service provision, he later added.
Mr Dolan made the comments in response to Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming, during a meeting of the committee to discuss the pre-budget submissions of a number of organisations.
Mr Fleming said several constituents had contacted him to say they were told that disability payments they had been entitled to for up to two years would not be extended as they had been reclassified as fit for work.
He said that in order to meet spending targets, the Department of Social Protection appeared to be reclassifying what counted as a disability.
Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan told the committee that thousands of his members would have to choose between reducing the worth of their farms by selling off land or depriving their children of higher education altogether if assets were used to means-test third-level grants.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said the issue applied to self-employed people across the board and that “nobody should ever have to make a choice between education and their livelihood”.
Mr Bryan said “a wet farm in Co Leitrim” could be worth up to €750,000 but that “if you sold it in the morning you couldn’t buy a senior civil servant’s pension”.
Carers’ Association chief executive John Dunne told the committee that income supports for the people he represents were hit twice as hard as the norm last year and it had been a step towards a point where community healthcare “becomes unviable and collapses”.