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Forthcoming Budget should move to protect carers and people with disabilities
It may be clichéd to say that societies should be judged on how they treat their most vulnerable, but it is clichéd because it is largely true.
It must also be acknowledged that those who devote their time to caring for those vulnerable people - whether people with disabilities, children, or older people - are filling an economically and socially imperative role for which they get nowhere near the recognition deserved. Even by conservative estimates, carers save the State billions of euros every year.
The latest Census suggests that 13.5 per cent of the population, or 643,121 people, experience disability. This represented an increase of 47,796 persons (8 per cent) on the 2011 figure of 595,335. Disability policy remains largely as set out in the National Disability Strategy from 2004 and its Implementation Plan published in 2013. There are many areas within the disability sector in need of further development and core funding, and an ambitious implementation process needs to be pursued.
People with disabilities were cumulatively affected by a range of decisions introduced as part of successive austerity Budgets. These included cuts to social welfare payments, changes in medical card eligibility, increased prescription charges, and cuts to supports such as respite, home support hours and housing adaptation grants. The cumulative effect of changes makes it difficult for some people to continue to live in their communities.
To support carers and people with disabilities to live fulfilling lives within their communities, Government must, in the forthcoming Budget:
- Introduce a cost of disability payment of €20 per week at a cost of €150m in Budget 2020.
- Increase investment in disability services, including respite and personal assistant services (cost of €35m).
- Allocate €5m for implementation of the UNCRPD.
- Increase the Domiciliary Care Allowance from €309.50 to €330 at a cost of €9m.
- Expand the Free Travel scheme to include people in receipt of Domiciliary Care Allowance (cost of €3m).
- Increase the annual Carer's Support Grant from €1,700 to €2,000 (at a cost of €34m).