A new measure which will allow people to earn more and keep their disability allowance will remove just one of many barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

Ireland’s largest disability organisation, Rehab Group, today welcomed the measure announced by Minister for Health Simon Harris describing it as a “step in the right direction”.

From December 1st this year, medical card earnings disregarded for persons in receipt of the allowance is increasing from €120 to €427 per week.

The announcement is also welcomed as it recognises Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the Dáil this year. Article 27 recognises the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others and encourages states to promote this right and prohibit discrimination through various measures including legislation.

A wide-ranging survey carried out by Rehab Group this year revealed 70pc of recipients do not have a job, despite wanting to work. Of those who indicated they did not want to work the majority cited fear of losing benefits – such as the medical card – as the reason.

Director of Communications, Public Affairs and Fundraising with Rehab Group, Kathleen O’Meara said: “Despite an increasing emphasis on the importance of diversity in the workforce, people with disabilities continue to be underrepresented. They are twice as likely not to be employed, even though one in three who are not working, wish to be. This is an untapped, diverse resource that employers far too often overlook to their own detriment. Ireland has the second highest gap in employment levels for persons with disabilities in the EU. We welcome this announcement as a welcome first step in supporting persons with a disability to take up or remain in employment, but there is a lot more to be done to remove the many barriers and open the way for people with disabilities in the workforce. 

 “The way out of poverty for many people with a disability is through employment. With the economy reaching capacity, it is time employers, and the government, provided the supports necessary to allow people with disabilities to participate fully in the community and to the economy.”

Rehab Group is asking employers to take part in an online survey surrounding attitudes, concerns and awareness of disability in the workplace at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/S6NHSPW. The findings will be published on Rehab Group website in January 2019.