Having a disability can cost €9,500-€11,700 extra a year

Survey of people with disabilities finds high unemployment and onerous living expenses

The report draws on the largest survey of people with disabilities undertaken in Ireland. Photograph: iStock

The report draws on the largest survey of people with disabilities undertaken in Ireland. Photograph: iStock

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The cost of having a disability is €9,482-€11,734 extra a year on top of everyday expenses, a report just published warns.

It was compiled by Indecon International on behalf of the Department of Social Protection, and finds disabled people and households including people with disabilities have to spend more on items such as fuel and light, transport, therapeutic equipment, medical expenses, domestic services, equipment aids and appliances, mobility and communications, daily living costs and care and assistance.

The report, Cost of Disability in Ireland, draws on the largest survey of people with disabilities undertaken here, with detailed responses returned by 4,734 people.

It finds households that have someone with a disability are spending “a significantly higher proportion of their income” on essentials, leaving them with nearly €8,000 less disposable income a year than other households.

While they are spending on average 18 per cent more on durable goods, 9.8 per cent more on energy and 8.8 per cent more on food than other households, they are spending 12.1 per cent less on housing and 6.5 per cent less on luxuries such as alcohol and tobacco.

Many said there were costs they could not afford to meet, including on adequate housing and transport, with unmet needs worth €2,522-€3,821 a year.

Meeting higher costs were particularly difficult for those on low incomes, especially for those 152,000 dependent on disability allowance of €203 per week.

The report says the greatest expenses are faced by those with developmental and psychological disabilities, digestive disorders and visual impairments.

It says, “evidence shows that while 59 per cent of persons without a disability were at work, only 22 per cent of those with a disability were employed … In Ireland the proportion of those individuals both in consistent poverty and at risk of poverty is considerably higher for those with each type of condition/illness than for those without any disability”.

Higher than average

It emphasised that costs varied across several dimensions and some disabled people faced far higher additional costs, some of more than €16,000 a year. Factors increasing costs included age, household type, and the severity and nature of the disability.

Asked what measures would help with the cost of living, 58 per cent said “extra income” would be “most helpful” with 30 per cent classifying this as “helpful”. On “extra grants”, 16 per cent said this would be “most helpful” while 31 per cent said “better services” would be “most helpful” and 38 per cent said this would be “helpful”.

There was a “need to differentiate supports to meet the needs of different groups” and recognise “the actual cost to some individuals who have specific needs may be significantly higher than the average”.

The report says: “Indecon believes additional supports for individuals with a disability … should be focused on the alleviation of poverty, reducing inequality and improving social inclusion and the quality of life of individuals living with disabilities in Ireland”. Measures to “facilitate access to employment opportunities” are “essential”.

Some increased supports should be means-tested, but “any means testing should not be unnecessarily onerous on individuals with disabilities”.

A spokesman for the Department of Social Protection said the report would be used to “properly inform the direction of future policy”.

“The report will now be referred to the National Disability Inclusion Strategy Steering Group – chaired by Minister of State with responsibility for disability Anne Rabbitte TD – to consider what actions should follow.”

The report was welcomed by disability groups, including the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), which called for “swift action” from government to address the cost-of-living crisis among many of those it supports.

“We welcome the multifaceted approach suggested … such as additional income, targeted grants, and better services. However, it is disappointing that after the delay in publishing this report, there is no plan for how the solutions required will be implemented,” said an NCBI spokeswoman.