A decision to cut a vital training allowance for people with disabilities has been slammed as an attack on society's most vulnerable.
As thousands of students who received CAO offers on Friday prepare to take up college courses in the coming weeks, a cohort of students with disabilities face having their Rehabilitative Training (RT) allowance axed next month.
The weekly allowance of €31.80 aims to support progression to further education or employment.
There are currently 2,300 people availing of the RT allowance, but it is estimated that this cut will impact about 400 students alone 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.
Student Conor Dillon from Swords, Co Dublin described the cuts as a slap in the face to those with disabilities.
The 21-year-old, who lives with cerebral palsy and attends the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf, Dublin is about to start RT to advance his education and skills.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Dillon said he’s now on a mission to highlight the “totally unfair” move by the HSE.
“When I heard that this allowance was going to be cut, I was very upset because I would have used it for trips out, lunch and transport costs and also for classes in my community,” he said.
“I feel if this allowance is taken away from me, I won’t be able to do as much activities or learning outside the centre.
“It’s totally unfair, which is why I’m now standing up for other people in my situation,” he said.
Ciaran Costello from Westmeath, who is in receipt of the weekly allowance, 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.”
Representatives from Aontas, the Central Remedial Clinic, Disability Federation of Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association and Rehab were in attendance today held at the press conference.
They have called on the HSE and Health Minister, Simon Harris to reverse this decision.
Research conducted by Rehab predict that 80pc of those in receipt of the RT allowance couldn’t have done their course without it.
Joan Carthy of Irish Wheelchair Association said rehabilitative training is vital to help young people with a disability to develop the skills and confidence required to live independent lives and contribute to society.
“It is unacceptable that, as thousands of their classmates and friends are preparing for third-level courses and apprenticeships, students with a disability are being denied access to training,” she said.
“It is clear that, without this allowance, young people with a disability will have a further barrier to equality placed before them.”
The HSE has said ending the Rehabilitative Training (RT) bonus would yield €3.7 million over a four-year period which will be reinvested in disability day services.