Insurers criticised by disabled group over hiring of PAs

Government urged to force firms to quote for employers’ and public liability insurance

Those directly employing PAs must have public and employers’ liability insurance. Photograph: iStock

Those directly employing PAs must have public and employers’ liability insurance. Photograph: iStock

 

Disabled people who employ personal assistants (PAs) to live independently have been refused employers’ and public liability insurance by nine separate Irish companies, forcing them to get cover – at up to 500 per cent more than they had been paying – outside the State.

The Áiseanna Tacaíochta (ÁT) network, which represents about 20 of those affected, describes the refusal of Irish insurers to quote for disabled employers as “discrimination”. It is calling on Government to intervene and compel Irish insurers to quote.

They say the insurers’ stance goes against national strategy to increase disabled people’s access to personal assistants, and hampers Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

More than 2,000 people with physical or sensory disabilities receive personal assistant (PA) hours from the HSE, to support them in such areas as personal care, housework, transport, work, shopping, socialising and administration and enable them live independently.

However, increasing numbers are seeking to access “personalised budgets”, or funding, from the HSE to arrange their own PA hours.

Task force

A task force on personalised budgets reported in 2018 recommending a pilot, or demonstration, model be established to work out how best to provide these on a widespread basis.

An estimated 40 to 45 people receiving personalised budgets participate in the model and the HSE plans to increase this fourfold in the coming year.

Those directly employing PAs must have public and employers’ liability insurance.

Since June the ÁT network has been trying to get an Irish insurer to quote, following the withdrawal from the Irish market of its former UK insurer in the wake of Brexit. Chief executive Paul McBride says: “The issue is that we have been declined cover by nine mainstream Irish insurers. The stated reasons from these insurers include, in their views, that it involves ‘care type risks’ which is ‘outside current risk appetite’.

“Without insurance the staff cannot work, and without the staff our members’ independence is taken away. This is an absolute violation of our members’ human rights under the UNCRPD.” Mr McBride has written to several Government departments calling for intervention.

Challenging

A spokeswoman for the insurance industry said: “Insurance Ireland recognises provision of liability insurance is challenging and over the past decade has seen insurers withdraw capacity from certain sectors.

“The Central Bank of Ireland’s report on employers’ liability [EL)AND]public liability,published in July, showed the average cost of an employers’ liability claim increased by 31 per cent between 2009 and 2019, while the average cost of a public liability claim increased by 16 per cent.”

The Department of Finance, asked by The Irish Times about disabled employers’ inability to get insurance from Irish insurers and what government could do to address this, did not reply.