Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputies for raising this issue today. The cost of disability can be measured by the costs faced by people with a disability in their day-to-day lives that others in society do not face, that is, the direct costs approach. It can also be measured by the amount of additional income a household containing a person with a disability would require to achieve the same standard of living as a comparable household that does not contain a person with a disability, that is, the equivalence approach.
To get a better understanding of these costs and the way they affect people differently, the Department of Social Protection commissioned Indecon International Research Economists to conduct an independent cost of disability study. As the Deputies will be aware, the report was published by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, on 7 December. There is no one single or typical cost of disability, but rather a range of costs from very low to extremely high depending on a person's individual circumstances. Indecon estimates this range, using both a cost studies method and an equivalence approach. The cost studies method is based on over 4,734 responses to a survey of people with disabilities. The equivalence approach applies econometric techniques to data from the annual survey of income and living conditions from the Central Statistics Office.
Indecon estimated that the overall average annual costs of disability in Ireland ranges from €9,482 to €11,734 per annum. The report recommends that additional costs of disability should be addressed through a multifaceted approach, involving increased cash payments, enhanced access to service provision and specific targeted grant programmes. It also recommends that disability payment levels should reflect the very different costs that arise according to the type and severity of disability. Furthermore, the concentration of any additional supports should be targeted at those most in need and facing the greatest additional costs of disability. The report also highlights that increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities should be a priority.
The analysis has clearly shown that extra costs of disability are incurred across a wide range of areas and can include expenditure such as medicines, care and assistance, equipment, aids and appliances, transport and mobility, costs of social engagement, home adaptation and day-to-day expenses on items like food and home heating. The research clearly shows that there is no one cost, but rather a spectrum of costs that varies across a number of dimensions, including the age of the individual, the severity of disability, as well as the nature of the disability and household type. While some of the costs reported through the survey are already met by the State, it is clear there is a lot more to do. It is also clear that further improvements cannot be delivered through income supports alone but require a broader perspective covering areas such as employment, housing, transport, education and health.
Without a doubt there will be important implications for public policy and service delivery for individuals living with a disability. There is no quick-fix solution here, but the Government is being proactive and will not be found wanting when it comes to actioning this report. It may take some time to address the various issues and cannot be done over the course of just one budget.
I am going to take the Deputies through the next steps of what exactly is being planned. After we do this, I am going into a meeting on the national disability inclusion strategy, NDIS, with the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Humphreys, and I will take the Deputies through the next steps of the pathway then.