The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) plan to abolish a training support allowance for people with disabilities has been blasted as “regressive” and mean-spirited.
Green Party Cllr Joe O’Brien hit out at the proposal, which will affect a number of Fingal services including the Reach Group at the BEAT centre in Balbriggan.
One of those affected is John Kennedy, a neighbour of Cllr O’Brien’s, who has benefitted greatly from the rehabilitative training allowance, which amounts to €31.80 a week.
Mr Kennedy told Dublin Gazette: “The allowance was very important to me as it allowed me to participate fully in the Reach Group trips.
“It meant I didn’t have to worry about expenses, which to many are small but if you don’t have the money, it can be a big barrier.”
Student Conor Dillon from Swords, who lives with cerebral palsy, also described the cuts as a slap in the face to those with disabilities.
Reach Group members recently enjoyed a day trip to St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin city centre, but outings like this will no longer be possible if the allowance is scrapped.
Cllr O’Brien last week met with workers and trainees of the group and has since written to Health Minister Simon Harris to ask him to reverse the decision.
He told Dublin Gazette: “The people I spoke to face huge challenges, barriers and prejudices in trying to live a normal life.
“Programmes like that offered by the Reach Group are hugely important in helping people make that first very daunting step into the wider world, where they get to learn and challenge themselves in a safe and supported environment.
“The Rehabilitative Training Allowance facilitates trainees to carry out activities and trips outside of the training centre – this is absolutely crucial in building the life skills and confidence of the trainees and facilitating greater social integration.
“The allowance is key to preventing institutionalisation and social isolation. The HSE will, quite frankly, further isolate and disempower one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our community with this proposed cut.”
Cllr O’Brien added: “I am also asking anyone who reads this to show some solidarity with this vulnerable group and write to the Minister to ask him to reverse this regressive and damaging cutback plan.”
The HSE said ending the allowance would save €3.7million over four years, which will be reinvested in disability day services.