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Suzy Byrne: We’re not talking bad backitis here ... we’re talking about people with real disabilities

• MIRACLES and instant cures from disability on offer from Irish Government. • Main-streaming will eradicate severe and profound disabilities. • Employers will suddenly offer jobs to everyone even if they can’t work. • Cutting disability allowance for young people brings them into line with their non disabled peers.

These deductions can be made by the defence strategy by Government parties of the cut to disability allowance announced yesterday.

If your disability meant that your family qualified for domiciliary care allowance when you were a child (ie it was a ‘severe disability’ and you needed constant care and attention) this disability will now disappear on your 18th birthday or half of it will until the age of 24. Congratulations! Well that’s what the government are implying whilst also not paying attention to the many other problems with disability policy in the land.

We are not talking ‘bad backitis’ here – these are generally people born with disabilities who are going to be affected including many people with autism and profound disabilities. Not all people with disabilities need disability allowance but not all people with disabilities are shirking and avoiding employment either.

Let’s follow the argument and really noble cause (if genuinely and properly resourced) of supporting people with disabilities into the workplace. If you are able to work and happen to get a job, the costs of your disability, be they medical, transport, diet, heating, clothing, laundry are not taken into account and won’t be either by this cut. You will continue to be taxed by default for your disability as in previous administrations. You would lose your travel pass, more likely than not your medical card and aids and appliances. If it was costing you to be disabled and you earned the same salary as an able bodied person and you get no financial support or tax allowance for your disability and no cover in case anything went wrong why would you apply for a job which might lose you all those benefits? Farcically your employer might get paid to hire you because you were less able but you would get no extra money to compensate for the cost of your disability.

If you use catheters or require bowel care support more often than not you can’t work because you need to use the services of nurses and others to attend to personal care and those services don’t work around people with jobs. Also you are more at risk of infections and ill health and there is only so much of that an employer will endure. You might have a PA service and that service may be cut and won’t help you get to work but only to get up in the morning and go to bed at night. Employment and education are not seen as essential parts of personal assistance and home help needs assessment. Making sure you don’t die in your bed and get a shower are now seen as essential. If you are a young person with a disability who might be able to work you won’t get PA support because your mother/sister/any other adult is seen as your carer (if not decision maker) whether you want them to be or not.

If you had a PA in school or college you will lose that when you finish training/education and if you need a PA to work there is no continuity so some people can’t work. Supports are not individualised.

If you wanted to work in the public service, you might have been able to get a job in previous years and had supports in place like flexible working, aids and appliances and a 3% quota. The embargo has shut all those possibilities.

There are no extra training places for people with disabilities in the budget by the way so they will be competing with able bodied people for places in training. Those who cannot work or attend training for employment, like ever, (and they exist and can rarely speak up for themselves) are being treated the same way as those who may be able to work with appropriate supports. Everyone is being failed by this and miracle cures of disability abound. (PS. There is a 20pc cut in the resources for students with disabilities at third level in the Education estimates)

People with disabilities have been failed by the lack of needs analysis before and during the boom, now we are bust we are failed again.

Policy changes and real reform might see the needs of disabled people actually met. But that would require some level of thought. And a commitment to equality and respect. We are not allowed have any of that. Only miracle cures by policy makers who have no experience of disability who are advised by people who use medical models to diagnose and cure the disabled and not the society that we live in. It would not actually cost more money in the long run, like moving people into the community has been proved to be cost effective, supporting people with disabilities in terms of income support might actually reduce the overall bill and give people a life.

With this move people with disabilities may also be seen as a further burden on their families and more open to abuse and neglect and when they don’t get jobs or can’t get jobs will be singled out further for being seen as other and won’t be able to afford to participate in society and will be hidden all over again.

There is a better way. A much better way of both saving money and supporting the participation in society of those with severe disabilities and protecting them. However austerity means cut first and don’t look later. One size (cut) can’t fit all.

All the scenarios illustrated above from my own and others personal experiences. (There is sarcasm in there too but the issues are all real).

We don’t have a strategy for people with disabilities, and no movement independent of service providers, funders or other vested interests (including our families) to call out the inequalities. Easy prey.

http://www.mamanpoulet.com/once-upon-a-time-in-disability-narnia