Friday 25 May 2018

Government U turn on disability cuts for young people

Sarah Stack and Lyndsey Telford

THE Government has been forced into an embarrassing Budget U-turn over plans to slash disability benefits for young people.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed a decision to cut rates paid to under 25s has been paused after a backlash from voters, charities and opposition parties.

Mr Kenny told the Dail the Cabinet will not press ahead with plans to chop allowances to new claimants as young as 16 from January.

"The Government doesn't get everything right all the time," said the Taoiseach, as he came under fire during Leader's Questions.

"There's an issue here that is of great sensitivity and we're reviewing it on that basis."

The coalition's controversial two-day 3.8 billion euro (£3.25 million) austerity Budget features a slew of indirect taxes hitting every aspect of daily life.

Vulnerable families and the disabled were left reeling from multimillion-euro benefit cuts, with shoppers, motorists, savers and investors hurled into the firing line of tax hikes.

Earlier angry callers hit the airwaves as Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin answered questions on RTE's Today with Pat Kenny radio show.

Stephen O'Riordan was on the verge of tears as he criticised Mr Noonan for bailing out the banks and paying unguaranteed bondholders while a verbal promise Taoiseach Enda Kenny made to his teenage sister Joanne not to touch disability benefits has been broken.

The 15-year-old from Millstreet, Co Cork, was born without arms or legs but remains actively involved in school and community events.

"All our lives myself and my family have fought for my sister to live an independent life and that money would have helped my sister to go on to a third level education," said Mr O'Riordan.

Mr Howlin maintained protecting the disabled was one of the ground factors of Budget 2012

"Genuinely it wasn't intended as a cut, it was one of the reform measures," he said.

"We are going to assure nobody in the disability category loses money," Mr Howlin added.

Disability allowance was due to be cut for under 18s and slashed from 188 euro (£161) to 100 euro (£85) for 18 to 21-year-olds and from 188 euro (£161) to 144 euro (£119) for 22 to 24-year-olds.

Rates for under 25s cared for by a qualified adult also faced reductions, while the domiciliary care allowance, which was paid to the family of a disabled child until the age of 16, would be extended until they are 18 years old.

Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has ordered a review by Ita Mangan, chair of the Tax and Social Welfare Commission.

Mr Noonan said Ms Burton sanctioned the cuts with the absolute best of intentions.

"But having looked at it now, I said last night, that we need to revisit this again in the Social Welfare Bill which will be going through before Christmas," added Mr Noonan.

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