Sunday 18 August 2019

'I'd feel guilty': Students protest against disability cuts

Message: Student Stacey Bermingham at Leinster House. PHOTO: COLLINS
Message: Student Stacey Bermingham at Leinster House. PHOTO: COLLINS

Allison Bray

Some students claim plans by the State to axe a special allowance for their peers this autumn is blatantly unfair.

A number of students protested outside Leinster House yesterday over plans by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to stop paying the Rehabilitative Training Allowance to new entrants this autumn.

The weekly stipend of €31.80 per student was designed as part of the vocational training allowance through Solas, but that allowance has been discontinued for a number of years.

However, the rehab allowance was given to disabled school leavers who take up training programmes.

The rehabilitative training programme is geared towards adults with disabilities to develop a range of skills that will support them in developing independence and progressing to educational, vocational and mainstream services where possible, according to the HSE.

However, the HSE announced that scrapping the stipend to new entrants in training programmes would from September 1 "bring equity to all persons attending HSE-funded adult day services and will be in line with mainstream vocational training services".

Yet adults who are currently attending programmes will continue to receive the allowance until they complete their programme.

But some of the students yesterday said scrapping the payment is "not on".

"It's vital to a lot of people," a protester told RTÉ's 'News at One' programme yesterday.

Student Bevan Murphy, who travelled from her home in Cobh, Co Cork, to take part in yesterday's protest said: "We as students aren't having it for the fact that we're getting paid, but I'm sitting next to students who aren't getting it.

"I would feel so guilty knowing I'm getting paid and they're not."

Several of the protesters said they rely on the payment to cover their lunches and other essentials, like travel expenses.

Workers in the sector also said the plan would create a financial disparity between current and future students and would slash much-needed money for a vulnerable group of individuals.

About 400 new entrants would be affected.

The HSE said €3.7m saved by cutting the payment would be reinvested in day services for the disabled.

Irish Independent

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