Axeing disability training support

 

Sir, – In a week dominated by discussion of the possibilities open to our young people, one cohort is again fighting simply to retain the limited options they already have.

Many students with disabilities will never sit the Leaving Cert, nor receive a CAO offer. Instead they can join HSE rehabilitative training (RT) courses, which identify, strengthen and enhance their abilities in environments where their specific learning needs are understood.

These students won’t receive a SUSI grant, but up until September 1st this year new entrants to these courses received the RT allowance of €31.80 per week.

In July the HSE announced that new entrants would no longer receive the allowance. We are demanding this decision is reversed.

The HSE has said ending the RT allowance will yield €3.7 million over a four-year period, which will be “reinvested in disability day services”. In comparison to an annual HSE budget of €16.05 billion, this is insignificant. However, withdrawing €31.80 per week from young people makes a significant difference to their lives. For many it will make the difference between them starting a training programme that could set them on the path to employment, or staying at home, living on benefits.

Remember, this is the Government that has committed to increasing employment among people with disabilities from 3 per cent to 6 per cent by 2024 in the public service. The overall policy objective is to ultimately move people with disabilities out of day services and into the workforce.

This is also the Government that in March 2018 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, yet this cut is not compliant with the convention. One in four people with a disability lives in consistent poverty, and this cut will only increase that number.

Students and instructors have told us this cut will mean extra hardship for those paying rent, for those living in rural areas with poor transport links and for those not receiving disability allowance. It will mean students skipping lunch. It will create a division where the aim is to build bonds, as those students enrolled before September 2019 pay for college social outings, while others cannot.

It is estimated that this cut will impact on 400 students this year. Why should this group of vulnerable people have money taken from them to boost services in other disability areas?

Research conducted by Rehab Group among RT students revealed that 80 per cent of respondents couldn’t have done the course without the allowance.

We are calling on the HSE and Minister for Health Simon Harris to look again at the young people with disabilities excluded through no fault of their own from the very courses designed by the HSE to facilitate their inclusion.

On behalf of those young people we are calling on them to reinstate the RTA. – Yours, etc,

JOAN McCARTHY,

Irish Wheelchair

Association;

MO FLYNN,

Chief Executive,

Rehab Group;

NIAMH O’REILLY,

Chief Executive,

Aontas;

STEPHANIE MANAHAN,

Chief Executive,

Central Remedial Clinic;

Senator JOHN DOLAN,

Disability Federation

of Ireland;

ENDA EGAN,

Inclusion Ireland.