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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Charity must pay only €11k a year for workers

Shane Phelan and Joanna Kiernan

THE cost to Rehab Group of employing people with intellectual disabilities can be as low as €10,700-a-year.

But despite the low costs involved, 18 staff were made redundant at the Rehab Enterprises recycling facility in Parkmore, Galway in 2012.

Government subsidies made up a large amount of the wages paid to staff there, Rehab said.

Under the Department of Social Protection's wage subsidy scheme, €5.30 per hour can be claimed up to a maximum of 39 hours per week for workers with disabilities.

A further subsidy, of €2.65 per hour, can also be drawn down towards additional supervisory, management and other work-based costs, the charity and commercial group said.

According to Rehab, the €2.65 subsidy does not go directly to the subvention of wages of the employee, but is a payment to offset the costs of the extra supports required in employing somebody eligible for the wage subsidy scheme.

Rehab said employees work between 21-39 hours per week. Based on a 39-hour working week for an operative-level employee at €9.09 per hour, this amounts to an employer cost of about €21,522 annually.

But a spokesman said that following the deduction of the €5.30 per hour subsidy, the annual cost to the employer of each employee is €10,773.

He said Rehab Enterprises currently employs 172 people who are eligible under the wage subsidy scheme.

Relatives of those let go in Galway have criticised the group, saying the redundancies made no sense when senior executives were earning six-figure salaries.

Aidan Larkin, whose special-needs brother was one of those let go, said: "It just doesn't add up. This money (the executive salaries) could have been spent elsewhere," he said.

Mr Larkin's brother was 50 and had worked at the recycling centre for almost two decades when he was told that his job was gone.

"He was devastated," Mr Larkin said.

"He kept asking people: 'Was I not doing a good job?' I asked if I could see their criteria for letting him go and they came up with crazy stuff for people with special needs, like motivation."

Mr Larkin's brother now receives disability allowance and works one day a week in a charity shop in Galway on a voluntary basis.

"It never made sense to me why they let him go. The money these people were earning was a pittance. It was more so a structure and a social outlet for them and for that to go was devastating," said Mr Larkin.

In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, Rehab said the decision to implement redundancies was "extremely difficult and regrettable".

It said it had been necessary due to "the economic downturn and poor market conditions".

The group said the Galway operation had been losing over €250,000 per annum for a number of years.

"Exhaustive efforts (were made) to secure new business for the facility to place it on a sustainable footing.

"Unfortunately, this proved unsuccessful and it was not possible to continue to subsidise losses," it said.

Rehab said it offered support to the staff who were let go in the form of Options, a "specially tailored programme" which cost the group €80,000 to run.

There are now 29 staff members at the Galway facility, including 17 people with disabilities.

Irish Independent

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