Disable Inequality Key Asks:
1. The appointment of a full Minister for Disability Inclusion.
2. That people with disabilities have a fair income.
3. That people with disabilities have the same access to supports and services as everyone else.
I know recent years have been challenging for people with disabilities, given the scale and depth of the economic crisis. In grappling with that crisis, the Government sought at all times to protect services to the greatest extent possible and to bring about recovery as quickly as possible, so that we could increase investment in vital areas. Thankfully, the recovery is firmly under way now, and in the last two Budgets, we have been able to make a series of targeted increases.
For example, Budget 2016 saw:
- €7.25 million being allocated for young adults leaving schools with a disability for school and training
- €2 million for the expansion of respite beds
- €8 million for therapeutic services for children, particularly speech and language therapy.
- €3.8 million for the National Disability Authority
- €76 million provided for the Capital Assistance Scheme which will ensure continued focus on meeting the housing needs of vulnerable groups with some 450 units to be provided for people with specific needs in 2016
- €45 million for Private Housing Grants will provide for some 8,500 grants in 2016 which will assist with adaptation works to enable older people and people with disabilities to remain living independently in their own homes for longer.
- The Christmas Bonus increased to 75%
- The weekly pension increased by €3 for pensioners and carers aged 66 and over.
- The fuel allowance increased by €2.50 to €22.50 per week.
- €30 million for the Respite Care Grant, now known as the Carer’s Support Grant. It increasing in 2016 by €325 to €1,700 per year paid to carers for each person being cared for.
- €3 million additional funding to fund the Free Travel Scheme, increasing the funding to €80 million in 2016.
Budget 2016 also saw an increase to the health budget of €880m – it is important that as the recovery spreads that investment in vital services is prioritised.
My Labour colleague Minister Aodhan O’Riordain launched the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities in October 2015. This Strategy is a cross-government approach that brings together actions by different Departments and state agencies in a concerted effort to address the barriers and challenges that impact on employment for people with disabilities. Labour is committed to its implementation.
Labour recognises that people with disabilities wish to live ordinary lives in ordinary places. But many face multiple barriers generated by society and the State over many decades in terms of paternalistic attitudes, low expectations and poorly designed buildings and services. We need to turn the tide on this culture of dependence.
If returned to government we are determined to:
- Immediately allocate 10% of funding of disability service providers to independent living initiatives, and we will increase this funding by 10% each year as capacity in the sector develops over time.
- Move towards a system of individualised budgeting for care services, granting power to individuals over the services provided
- Sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into law within the first year of government
Looking ahead, I’m determined that we use the proceeds of recovery to invest in services first and foremost. With the resources available to the next government, the Labour Party favours a 3:1 split between investment and tax reform. This means that for every €1 of tax reductions, €3 would be invested in essential services, such as our schools, hospitals and communities. Our vision is to sustain a strong economy in order to build a decent society. Labour will stand up for good services and the people dependent on them.