Disabled groups call training allowance cut attack on vulnerable
The decision to cut a vital training allowance for people with disabilities has been slammed as an attack on society's most vulnerable.
As the thousands of students who received CAO offers on Thursday prepare to take up college courses, a cohort of students with disabilities face having their Rehabilitative Training (RT) allowance axed next month.
The allowance of €31.80 a week is to support their progression to further education or employment.
There are currently more than 2,200 people availing of the allowance, but it is estimated this cut will affect about 400 students this year.
It is believed that as a consequence many students waiting to start rehabilitative courses in September will not be able to do them at all.
Six disability groups came together yesterday at Buswell's Hotel in Dublin to protest at the HSE's decision.
Ciaran Costello, from Co Westmeath, who is in receipt of the weekly fund, has been studying with the National Learning Network for almost two years.
There is no bus service in his town, requiring him to use the €31.80 to cover petrol costs for the 20km journey to his course.
"If I hadn't got that €31.80, I wouldn't have been able to do that, and not only would my disability have got worse, my mental health would have got worse," he said.
"So please, anyone in the Government, €31.80 is not a lot to pay for a student to go and get back into society."
Research conducted by Rehab Group concludes 80pc of those in receipt of the RT allowance couldn't have done their course without it.
Representatives from Aontas, the Central Remedial Clinic, Disability Federation of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab have now called on the HSE and Health Minister Simon Harris to reverse the decision.
"It is clear that, without this allowance, young people with a disability will have a further barrier to equality placed before them," said Joan Carthy of the Irish Wheelchair Association.
The HSE said ending the RT payment would yield €3.7m over a four-year period, which would be reinvested in disability day services. Mr Harris did not respond to queries by the Irish Independent.