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 Header Item Disability Allowance Payments (Continued)
 Header Item Job Initiatives

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton]  The second report of the advisory group on tax and social welfare on the issue of the 2012 budget proposals regarding domiciliary allowance and domiciliary care allowance, DCA, was published by Government on 10 April 2013. At the same time, the report of the review group on the operation of the DCA scheme was also published. These reports make a number of policy recommendations which make a valuable contribution to the policy debate in regard to young people with disabilities.

My colleagues in government and I will consider these findings, taking into account future developments in terms of the budgetary and fiscal situation as well as other work under way. The advisory group is currently examining the issue of working age supports and, as part of this work, the group will consider the appropriate payment rates and the equitable treatment of all people of working age.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Thank you Minister.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Just let me say, a wide group of interested organisations were represented, including the Carers Association, Down Syndrome Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, Inclusion Ireland, the Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities, and parent representatives of the DCA Warriors group. They have all been consulted extensively and involved in the report.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The DCA review group included representatives from a number of Departments, the National Disability Authority, representatives from the NGO umbrella group representing the Carers Association, Downs Syndrome Ireland, Irish Autism Action, Special Needs Parents Association, Inclusion Ireland, the Midlands Regional Forum of People with Disabilities, and parent representatives in the DCA Warriors group. The administrative recommendations made in the review report will result in an improvement in the level of service provided to our customers and will assist in ensuring that those people who meet the qualifying conditions for the payment receive it in a timely manner. It is my intention that the administrative improvements will be implemented quickly.

  Since the report has been published, work is already under way to put the implementation group in place. Forms and communications are being reviewed and in addition, the technical changes necessary to support the new administrative processes have been defined and are included in a tender to go to the marked within the next few weeks.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea There are very strong commitments to the disabled in the manifestos of both Government parties to the disabled. There are also strong commitments in the programme for Government. However, since the Government has taken office, we have seen the disability awareness initiative reduced by 72% and the Department of Education and Skills has reduced funding for students with disabilities by 20%. I could mention also the respite care grant, the mobility allowance and funding for adaptation of houses for the disabled, which has been reduced by 40%. I could go on and on.

Last year, the proposal was mooted in the budget to remove the right to apply for disability allowance from people in receipt of domiciliary care allowance, once they reached the age of 16. That would have resulted in a 59% drop in income for people who qualify for disability allowance at age 16 between the ages of 16 and 18 and would amount to a drop of 42% for 18 to 21 year olds. Is this proposal back on the agenda or can we reassure the people who have been contacting us about this, parents of children with cerebral palsy and extreme autism etc. that it is firmly off the agenda?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton If the Deputy is familiar with parents who have children with a disability, he will understand there are a number of different issues that arise.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I am.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The issue of income support is extremely important, but so is the issue that children with a disability should be facilitated to remain in education and training, particularly as teenagers, and then, hopefully, move on to employment. We must consider how best to spend funding for families with children with a disability and how to provide services and for good quality training and educational opportunities that will give those children a good chance of participation in the labour force, whether part-time or full-time.

The work and contributions of the organisations I listed in my response, representing families and children with disabilities, was particularly valuable. Based on their advice, we are currently in the process of updating the different systems. For instance, people now get three months notice of any kind of review and a further period of two months before implementation. We have also taken advice from people who have made submissions to the review group with regard to the design of the systems and their application. I am very grateful the organisations involved have contributed their expertise and knowledge to the Department. We will continue to commit to significant funding, but with the object of enhancing both income and services, including education and training of the best quality we can provide.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The reasoning underlying the report's primary suggestion is that the receipt of disability allowance at the age of 16 would encourage people to leave school and become full-time participants of the social welfare system. There is not a shred of evidence to support that. All the anecdotal evidence available to me points in the opposite direction. What sort of committee would come up with a suggestion that people with cerebral palsy or spina bifida in receipt of domiciliary care allowance will suddenly leave the education system? Many of them would be leaving the education system anyway at 16.

When the Government decided to withdraw this proposal last year, the Taoiseach said the "Government did not get it right". He also said: "This is a case where the Government has listened". If this proposal was not right last year, how is it right now? Has the Government stopped listening?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I welcome the contribution of the Deputy to the debate and Fianna Fáil's interest in this area.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea We never proposed a change in this regard.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I hope Fianna Fáil continues to take an interest in this area. I do not know how aware of the situation the Deputy is or how familiar he is with it. The issue for many parents of children with a disability is that although, thankfully, these children are very integrated into education, particularly in their early years, many children with different levels of disability would like to continue to be involved in training and education. Many of them also want to be able to take part in paid employment.

As a society, it should be our ambition not simply to provide income support for families and individuals with a disability, but to provide structures which provide for services that allow people to participate fully in society as adults to the extent they wish and for which they have the capacity.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea How will this proposal bring that about? That has nothing to do with my question.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton We must look at the question of people's abilities rather than, as the Deputy is doing, talking in terms of the person's disability.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I am talking on behalf of parents.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I would like to invite Fianna Fáil to start looking at ability as well as disability.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea How does the Minister's proposal do that? She cannot give any reassurance in that regard.

Job Initiatives

 5. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason a jobs club service funded by FÁS has been withdrawn from Bawnogue, Clondalkin, Dublin; and the reason jobs club workers have not been paid for weeks worked or being offered enhanced redundancy as would be the norm in such circumstances. [19162/13]

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Jobs clubs provide a valuable service to supplement the Department’s own employment services, particularly with regard to the provision of job search and CV preparation workshops for unemployed people. Jobs clubs accepted approximately 14,000 referrals of individual jobseekers from the Department in 2012. In addition, they provided a walk-in resource service to people in their community. The annual budget for the support of jobs clubs in 2013 is €6 million, an increase of 5% on the 2012 allocation. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of jobs clubs and believe well run jobs clubs have an important role to play. I commend a number of the jobs clubs I have had the honour to visit.

The Department has annual contracts for the provision of jobs club services with over 40 companies. Each contract is reviewed on an annual basis. As part of the review process, the Department undertakes a structured appraisal of that provider's performance with each element of provider performance being scored against a common rating scale used to assess all jobs clubs.


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