Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I want to ask specifically how the Department of Health intends to use the cost of disability report finally published last week. This report was published by the Department of Social Protection. Based on the very modest and incremental increases of just €5 across most welfare payments for 2022, it is understandable that I and others are not holding out hope for a fully resourced cost of disability payment to appear, as if by magic, next year.
The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and the Department of Health are discharged with the lion's share of the €2.2 billion disability budget, yet most of the extra costs incurred by disabled people are essential services and supports that the HSE, technically and in policy, provides, but in reality does not. Day in and day out, I am hearing from people on the ground about their struggles, worries, stress and pressures. The report shows that having a disability can cost anywhere between €9,500 and €12,000 extra per annum. It is a little reductive to celebrate the publication of a report that is telling us what we already know and what the experts in direct lived experience have been shouting about from the rooftops for decades. This year we have had the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission report and activists and advocates sounding the alarm that disabled people are more at risk of fuel poverty, unemployment, mental illness, lack of access to adequate housing and transport and, therefore, exposure to inadequate housing and many other deprivation factors.
How will this report inform future disability services policy for 2022? Will another year pass where we feel we have to accept that many disabled people, between means testing and limited earnings, are stuck in a poverty and dependency cycle?