ORGANISATIONS STEP UP CAMPAIGN TO REVERSE CRUEL AXING OF TRAINING ALLOWANCE FOR SCHOOL LEAVERS WITH DISABILITIES
Six disability groups came together today to protest the planned axing of a vital training allowance which supports people with disabilities who take up training programmes.
As thousands of students who received CAO offers on Friday prepare to take up college courses in the coming weeks, a cohort of vulnerable students with disabilities face having a vital training allowance axed next month putting their ability to attend further training in jeopardy.
The weekly Rehabilitative Training allowance of €31.80 is provided to school-leavers with a disability who take part in training programmes. It aims to support their progression to further education or employment. There are currently 2,300 students eligible for the allowance which is due to be phased out, with incoming students in the autumn no longer qualifying for it. The allowance is used by those participating in training programmes to pay for food, travel, the extra costs of having a disability and socialising.
One in four people with a disability live in consistent poverty compared with 8% of the general population and this move by the HSE will further widen the poverty gap.
It is estimated that this cut will impact approximately 400 students alone this year. Many students waiting to start rehabilitative courses in September would have factored this allowance into their budgets and now may now not be able to take up these courses.
Research conducted by Rehab among students currently undertaking its rehabilitative training courses revealed that 80% of respondents couldn’t have done the course without the allowance. The research also revealed 80pc of respondents use the allowance to pay for food and 40pc for transport.
Representatives from Aontas, the Central Remedial Clinic, Disability Federation of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab held a press conference at Buswell’s Hotel at 11am on Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.
The group was united in its opposition to the planned abolition of the Rehabilitative Training Allowance which it described as a ‘cruel and short-sighted measure’. It called on the HSE and Health Minister, Simon Harris to reverse this decision.
Joan Carthy of the Irish Wheelchair Association said: “Rehabilitative training is vital to help young people with a disability to develop the skills and confidence required to live independent lives and contribute to society. The vast majority of young people starting these courses in September are teenagers and school leavers. Without this modest allowance many young people won’t be able to begin a rehabilitative training course. Often, they will be left with no other option than to stay at home. The axing of this allowance is therefore completely at odds with the Government’s employment strategy, which saw it increase the quota of people with disabilities to be employed in the public services from 3 percent to 6 percent.”
“It is unacceptable that, as thousands of their classmates and friends are preparing for third-level courses and apprenticeships, students with a disability are being denied access to training. It is clear that, without this allowance, young people with a disability will have a further barrier to equality placed before them,” she added.
Conor Dillon from Swords, Co Dublin who is set to take up Rehabilitative Training Programme with the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in Clontarf in September will now not receive this allowance worth €1,650 per year.
“I think that it was very wrong that this allowance is being taken away from people who are doing their best to progress with their education. I am really annoyed and I feel discriminated against. Why is it our allowance that was taken away? I was planning on using this money for lunches and transport while I completed this course,” he said.
The HSE has said ending the Rehabilitative Training (RT) bonus would yield €3.7 million over a four-year period which will be reinvested in disability day services.
Joan Carthy concluded: “We are asking the HSE, why should one group of vulnerable people who need support to progress have money taken from them to boost services in other disability areas? There is a palpable anger among the disability community that the HSE has singled out young people with a disability for a cruel, short-sighted cutback. The HSE, and the Minister for Health, must recognise the damage this move will inflict on hundreds of young people, all of whom have already overcome significant disadvantages, and ensure that new entrants receive the allowance in September.”