Thursday 22 March 2018

More cuts loom after U-turn on disability

Michael Brennan and Aideen Sheehan

SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton will have to find up to €7m in extra social welfare cutbacks after carrying out her first Budget U-turn yesterday.

She abandoned the planned cut to disability payments for teenagers after an outcry from government backbenchers, the opposition and parents who contacted Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' programme.

Ms Burton will have to implement another €7m in cutbacks after effectively scrapping the plan to cut disability payments for new claimants aged 18 to 21 from €188 to €100. And the plan to prevent teenagers with disabilities from claiming disability allowance at the age of 16 instead of 18 is also been put on hold.

The cut is now being reviewed quickly by an expert group set up by Ms Burton -- and will not go ahead for the foreseeable future.

The Department of Public Expenditure confirmed last night that the spending limits for Ms Burton's department "remain in place" -- so she will have to find the savings elsewhere to meet her target of €475m in cutbacks.

The news of the disability allowance U-turn was greeted with relief yesterday by the father of a teenager whose personal circumstances had undermined the Government's case for making the cut.

Niall Winters, from Trim in Co Meath, even got a personal phone call from Taoiseach Enda Kenny last Wednesday to discuss the situation of his 15-year-old son Tom, who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

His son Tom would have missed out on the allowance if the Budget cut had gone ahead. Mr Winters said he was happy with the promise by Mr Kenny to visit him and his son in their home on Thursday next week.


Mr Kenny told the Dail yesterday that the disability allowance cut had been paused because a lot of "very sensitive factual circumstances" had been brought forward. But he had to face criticism from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin yesterday, who pointed out that he had stood over the cut the previous day.

It was backbenchers from both Fine Gael and Labour who made the most significant intervention by expressing their concern to Ms Burton. She had announced the cut as part of €475m in social welfare cutbacks, but confirmed yesterday it was now being put on hold.

The Government in general did not appear to see the row over disability payments coming as the Department of Social Protection's spending review sets out the cost savings from the changes without any analysis of their political impact.

Irish Independent

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