For the first time in 2021, the Irish Government agreed that there are extra costs to having a disability. This means that there will need to be laws, policies and supports around this cost in the future. It will be important for Inclusion Ireland to work on this.
The UNCRPD is clear on the need to stop poverty for people with disabilities. Article 28, which is about an adequate standard of living and social protection, requires states to “ensure access by persons with disabilities…to social protection programmes and poverty reduction programmes”.
Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC)
The recent Survey on Income and Living Conditions (2022) highlighted that living conditions have got worse in Ireland. In this survey, 13.1% of people were at risk of poverty in 2022, compared with 11.6% in 2021 and 5.3% of people were found to be living in consistent poverty, up from 4.0% in 2021.
The survey more specifically focused on people unable to work due to long-standing health problems, including disabled people. The survey underlined that one in five people in this group are living in consistent poverty (compared to 5.3% in the general population) which constitutes the highest rate amongst all the disadvantaged groups. One in three persons (35.2%) are at risk of poverty (compared to 13.1% in the general population). Finally, this group has one of the lowest rates of disposable income (€18,144).
The current rate for the Disability Allowance is €220. This amount, while it has increased in recent budgets, is still much lower than the poverty threshold which was €291.50 per week in 2021. The Covid pandemic has highlighted the important role Ireland’s social protection system can play in protecting people from poverty, through the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). However, the considerable gap between the €350 of the PUP set in 2020, before the current inflation, and the current rate of €220 for the disability allowance sends a clear signal that disabled people are not seen as equals to other Irish citizens.
The comprehensive, government-commissioned “Cost of Having a Disability in Ireland” report was published in 2021 and it estimated that the total annual additional cost of disability for people with intellectual disabilities is €13,107. Care and assistance were one of the highest average costs (€541) that people with an intellectual disability could not afford, together with adequate housing (€505) and transport (€384). Other areas like mobility (€193), communications (€185) and medicines (€107) were also highlighted. 72% of the respondents with intellectual disabilities in the Cost of Disability Report stated that they would earn more if they did not have a disability. They reported that without their disability, they could earn from €21,523 to €25,203 (depending on the level of support they have).
A set of measures was voted to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis faced by many in Ireland. This included two double weekly payments, a €500 one-off payment, and a €12 increase per week of the disability allowance. While these measures were welcomed, especially the increase of the disability allowance that nearly matched our recommendations, they only addressed partially in a short-term/reactive manner the economic struggle faced by many people with an intellectual disability and the systemic barriers forcing people to remain living in poverty. A once-off payment seems to be more rooted in the charity approach of disability while the permanency of a payment would send the signal that compensation for the extra cost of disability is a right and should not depend on the budget available from one year to another. The extra costs for equipment, medical bills, services and therapies remain the same or even rise year upon year.
One-off payments will not solve the consistent poverty faced by disabled people. Inclusion Ireland together with other organisations has long been advocating for the permanent cost of disability payment. As the cost of disability report expressed in the conclusions: “The levels of disability payments and allowances should be changed to reflect the very different costs of disability by severity and type of disability.”
We call for:
- An increase in the rate of the disability allowance to match it with the poverty threshold (€291.50).
- A permanent cost of disability payment to ensure that the extra cost is recognised long-term, not through one-off payments.
- A special fund for equipment, technology and other essential assistive aids and appliances for people with higher support needs and their families who face the highest cost of disability.
Budget 2024 was announced on the 10th of October 2023.
We have created an easy-to-read document explaining what the announcements in Budget 2024 may mean for you. You can read it here.