Government urged to address the double burden of the cost of living crisis on people with disabilities.
Rehab Group launches its Pre Budget Submission 2023
Hidden healthcare fees, barriers to employment and the disproportionate cost of living with a disability are the most critical issues affecting the 12,800 people using Rehab Group’s services.
The disability organisation launched its Pre-Budget Submission 2023 today, echoing calls from across the sector to introduce a cost of disability payment to offset the disproportionate effect the cost of living crisis is having on people with disabilities.
Rehab Group conducted focus groups with more than 220 people using its services across the country to prepare for this Submission. The people who use our services focussed on the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in the current cost of living crisis and the solutions they implored the Government to put in place.
The disability organisation is calling on the Government to introduce a Cost of Disability payment and address hidden healthcare expenses by incorporating all medical needs into the Medical Card scheme, including blood tests, medical certs, and an expansion of dental care.
CEO of Rehab Group, Barry McGinn, said: “The results of our focus groups corroborate the findings of the Cost of Disability report, with participants highlighting difficulties in surviving financially with day-to-day expenses, especially those considering living independently. Specific barriers lead people with disabilities into an almost unending cycle of relying on welfare payments that do not meet their needs.”
Although a common thread throughout the groups was how difficult it was to survive on social welfare payments, many outlined that living independently or without their family’s support would be impossible.
Mr McGinn said: “While much of the general public struggles with the cost of living crisis, the people who use our services face many additional costs associated with their disability. Despite publishing a third Cost of Disability report, the Government has yet to adequately respond to any of its recommendations. This failure has exacerbated the difficulties faced by people with disabilities during this time.”
The Submission also outlines how people with disabilities experience multiple barriers to accessing and sustaining employment, including access and infrastructural barriers, poverty traps, negative stereotypical perceptions, and limited progressive education opportunities.
The main issues people encountered when trying to access employment included anxiety around how work may affect their Social Welfare payments and accessing transport to attend interviews and jobs. In addition, they also encountered a stigma or hesitancy amongst employers in employing someone with a disability and difficulties in gaining work experience due to the pandemic. In addition, some employers cited staff shortages as a reason not to take someone on work experience.
Access to the wider employment market was also one of the main points of concern for the people surveyed who use our services. The main issues people encountered when trying to access employment included anxiety around how work may affect their Social Welfare payments and accessing transport to attend interviews and jobs. In addition, they also encountered a stigma or hesitancy amongst employers in employing someone with a disability and difficulties in gaining work experience due to the pandemic. In addition, some employers cited staff shortages as a reason not to take someone on work experience.
The organisation, which supported more than 2,400 people with disabilities into employment through its training provider National Learning Network in the last five years, is calling for a number of meaures to facilitate greater access to the employment market for people with disabilities. These include changes to the Wage Subsidy Scheme to include lowering the threshold to the minimum hours per week (eight hours) to allow more people with significant disabilities to become employed.
Mr McGinn added: “Ireland also has one of the highest gaps between people with and without disabilities (45.1 percentage points) in employment. Rehab Group’s five-year strategy “Delivering our Future,” will see the organisation play a significant leadership role in supporting people with disabilities to develop and progress in their careers. An innovative new model of supported employment for people with disabilities the Transitional Workforce Model (TWM) will partner with the business community to provide opportunities for people with disabilities that have been underdeveloped. TWM will provide a placement and support service for people with disabilities that offers a supported transition from unemployment to employment. This innovation comes at an opportune time when they are acute staff shortage across various sectors in the economy. Simultaneously, post Covid19 home working and hybrid arrangements have opened up new opportunities for people with disabilities.”
The Pre Budget Submission includes direct quotes from participants highlighting the difficulties of surviving financially with day-to-day expenses, especially those considering living independently, and issues around accessible transport.
“We need more money to live. The Disability Allowance needs to be increased by at least 30 euros to be able to live on it”, remarked a member of RehabCare.
“I rely on public transport to get into RehabCare centre, there is only one bus into Galway in the morning at 7am, and one to go home at 6pm. It makes my day really long and I get very tired. It means I will only come in once a week. I feel like I’m going to miss out on activities and workshops because of this.”
“I only get the medication I really need, some months.”
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