A PhD student has said that while the one-off payments announced in Budget 2023 are welcomed, they will not reduce the poverty trap experienced by disabled people.
Catherine Gallagher (25), who is physically disabled, said the means-tested element to Ireland’s disability allowance should be overhauled, but she’s not surprised that didn’t happen in today’s announcement.
"A one-off payment won’t reduce the poverty trap experienced by disabled people, and it won’t improve the overall quality of life; it’s not going to have a long-term impact,” she said.
Those on the disability benefit will receive a one-off €500 payment in November, and €12 extra a week.
“Having said that, any help or aid is welcome, particularly at the minute but the poverty trap, the means-tested debacle hasn’t gone away,” Ms Gallagher said.
"It’s really important to stress that this isn’t going to change the long-term impact.”
She added as disabled people face extra costs of over €9,000 a year, they “constantly and have always lived a cost of living crisis.”
The 25-year-old is from Achill, Co Mayo, but is currently living in Dublin as she is undertaking a PhD in Dublin City University (DCU).
Last year, she found out that she would lose her disability allowance if she decided to take on a PhD scholarship that has a stipend of €16,000 a year.
After much campaigning, in March of last year Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys signed a new bill called ‘Catherine’s Law’ that means people will no longer lose their Disability Allowance for accepting stipends associated with PhD scholarships.
However, Ms Gallagher said the fight is not over and there are still many issues with the disability allowance, including that it’s means-tested, which wasn’t overhauled in Budget 2023.
She added that on top of the rising cost of living, disabled people have many other costs.
A report published by the Department of Social Protection shows that the extra costs incurred for being a disabled person in Ireland range from €9,000-€16,000 a year.
"So you have the additional cost of disability already on top of the cost-of-living crisis,” she said.
"Also it’s a means-tested payment and it means that if you take on a job the first €140 per week that you earn is not means tested, but everything after that will be.
"It also means that if you live with a partner, a romantic partner, even if you aren’t married to them, their income, would be taken into consideration for the means test.”
The PhD student said this leads to many disabled people not living with their partners, or having to sneak around, and it can also lead to those who do live with their partners and have their allowance cut in a vulnerable position.
"It begs the question, do we actually really have marriage equality?” she said.
"If you're financially dependent on a partner it can leave someone being open to being manipulated or coerced financially, disabled people, especially disabled women, are statistically more likely to experience domestic abuse and violence, even more so than non-disabled women.
“Leaving a situation like that or trying to escape from a situation like that is incredibly difficult.
"So it means that long term it is something that seriously needs to be overhauled.
"I think most, if not all of the barriers, on the means test needs need to seriously be considered to be removed.”