Additional €150m for disability services in budget
Another 100 speech and language therapists to be hired to tackle waiting lists
Minister of State for disability issues Finian McGrath said he “needed to ensure that any extra money secured would be going towards services”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Additional funding of €150 million has been allocated for disability services in the budget announced on Tuesday.
The extra funding will in part provide support services for young adults with disabilities leaving secondary school. Minister of State with responsibility for disability services Finian McGrath said €12 million would be invested in supports for the 1,500 adults who finish the school system each year.
An additional 100 speech and language therapists would be hired to address needs assessment waiting lists for children with disabilities.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr McGrath said he “needed to ensure that any extra money secured would be going towards services”.
Other areas expected to receive increased investment included respite services, and the provision of more personal assistant hours for individuals with physical disabilities, Mr McGrath said. The total budget for disability services next year would be €1.8 billion.
A portion of the extra funding will go towards a recent pay deal agreed with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and health support staff, who work in what are known as Section 39 organisations.
Other new measures included a commitment to equality-proof all future budgetary decisions based on how they will affect people with disabilities.
Some €300,000 was also set aside by the Department of Social Protection, to commission research into the cost of living with a disability in Ireland.
Reacting to the budgetary measures, the increased investment was welcomed by several disability rights organisations.
However, Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) said a breakdown in where the investment would go was needed, to ensure it would make a “practical difference” to services.
“We have highlighted the need for substantial investment simply to get us back to where we were before 2009, and the cutbacks when disability budgets were slashed,” the DFI said in a statement.
Inclusion Ireland, an organisation representing those with intellectual disabilities, said the decision to introduce disability-proofing for future budgeting was a positive step. A spokeswoman said often budgetary changes had “the potential to disproportionately impact on people with a disability”.
The budget was criticised by Family Carers Ireland, who said it ignored the crisis in the homecare system. In a statement the organisation said it was “bitterly disappointed” the Government had not addressed the lack of support for carers, many of whom were at “breaking point”.
Disability charity Rehab criticised the budget for failing to prioritise those with disabilities, given Ireland’s recent ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“While a €5 per week increase in social welfare payments and the restoration of the Christmas bonus were announced, this does not reflect the true costs of disability. The Rehab Group had called for an increase of €20 per week to disability and other allowances,” a spokeswoman said.