Post Budget report

Budget 2017 was a huge disappointment for people living with a disability. A ‘Programme for a Partnership Government’ along with the appointment of Minister of State with special responsibility for Disability Issues Finian McGrath, gave a sense that the government was actually listening to the needs of people with disabilities.

As people with disabilities have faced severe cuts over the last 10 years Irish Wheelchair Association along with other organisations made recommendations to the government some of which included

  • An additional 500,000 Personal Assistant hours are urgently required so that people with disabilities are not isolated in their own homes or left in emergency situations.
  • An Introduction of a cost of disability payment which should coincide with the introduction of a needs based medical card
  • Suitable and affordable wheelchair accessible housing for people with disabilities. IWA stressed that as part of Budget 2017 the Government must address the homeless crisis and include people with physical disabilities in all social housing policies and to ensure delivery by insisting that 10% of all integrated mainstream social housing units will be wheelchair accessible and built to an agreed best practice standard design.
  • An investment into wheelchair accessible transport nationwide

None of these recommendations were included in the budget which leaves people with disabilities completely disillusioned.

600,000 people are living with disabilities in Ireland and again we have been left behind. There was no investment put into disability services during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and €159m was cut during the recession. Yet again people with disabilities have been left out in the cold and below the poverty line excluded from society.

Irish Wheelchair Association will continue to lobby the Government to include people with disabilities in all aspects of life.

Below are some details of the budget 2017

Taxation

Income tax
The Home Carer’s Tax Credit that is given to married couples or civil partners where one spouse or civil partner works in the home caring for a dependent person is increasing from €810 to €1,000 for 2016. The home carer’s income threshold is increasing from €5,080 to €7,200.


Social Welfare

The total social protection budget in 2016 will increase by over €250 million. Total expenditure in 2016 will be €19.638 billion.

Older people and carers

State pensions

The weekly rate for people getting State pensions will increase by €5 per week. Payments to carers and widowers, widows and surviving civil partners aged over 66 will also increase by €5 per week (January 2016).

Increases for Qualified Adults aged under 66 years will go up by €2 and increases for qualified adults aged 66 years or over will go up by €2.70 (January 2016). These changes will benefit 583,000 recipients of payments and 93,500 dependants.

Carers

The name of the Respite Care Grant will be changed to the Carer’s Support Grant to better reflect how it is used by recipients. The grant will increase by €325 to €1,700 per year for each person being cared for (June 2016). This will benefit 86,000 carers.

Carer’s Allowance will be paid for 12 weeks (currently 6 weeks) after the death of the person being cared for (January 2016).

Free travel

There is €3 million in additional funding for the Free Travel Scheme in 2016. This provision will provide for the increased numbers of people eligible for the scheme.

Fuel Allowance

Fuel Allowance will increase by €2.50 per week to €22.50 per week. Fuel Allowance is paid to people getting long-term social welfare payments – including pensioners, people with disabilities, people parenting alone and jobseekers (January 2016). This provision will benefit 381,000 households.

Christmas Bonus

A 75% Christmas Bonus will be paid in December 2015 to people getting a long-term social welfare payment (minimum payment of €20).

People getting the following payments will receive the Christmas Bonus:

  • State Pensions and Widow’s/Widower’s/Surviving Civil Partner’s Pensions
  • Invalidity Pension, Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Domiciliary Care Allowance and guardian’s payments
  • Long-term Jobseeker’s Allowance including Jobseeker’s Transition payment, Pre-Retirement Allowance, One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife’s Benefit and Allowance and Farm Assist
  • Back to Work Allowance, Back to Work Family Dividend, Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme, Tús, Gateway and Job Initiative

This will benefit 1.23 million people at a cost of €197 million.


Housing, Employment and Business, Education and Training

Housing

Adaptations and remediation

€45 million is provided for approximately 8,500 housing adaptation grants for older people and people with a disability


Employment

Supports for unemployed people

Employment schemes

Participants on Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme, Tús, Gateway and JobBridge will receive a top up payment of €2.50 per week towards meals and travel costs from January 2016.

Education and Training

Childcare

A number of supports to enable children with disabilities to fully participate in pre-school care and education will be phased in during 2016 at a cost of €15 million. Supports will include grants for equipment, appliances, minor alterations, access to therapeutic intervention and training for childcare staff.

€3.5 million is to be provided for measures to improve quality in childcare.

€3 million will be allocated to support disadvantaged students including the Student Assistance Fund in higher education.


Health, Justice, Other Announcements

Health

Free GP care will be introduced for all children under 12 years of age, subject to negotiation with the Irish Medical Organisation.

€8 million is allocated to improve availability of therapeutic services for children, including speech and language therapy.