SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Joan Burton has been accused of playing politics with people’s fears following a report today that the disability allowance paid to under 18s could be abolished in December’s Budget.
The Irish Times reports that an expert group – the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare – has proposed to increase the minimum qualifying age for disability allowance payments from 16 t0 18 with a compensation payment made to the teenager’s parent or guardian.
The proposal has been met with criticism from Sinn Féin which noted that it was the second proposal from the group that has been leaked to the media in the last two weeks following a proposal to reduce child benefit to €100 per child which was leaked to RTÉ last week.
The Department of Social Protection did not comment on the second leak in two weeks and whether it was taking steps to address the matter when asked by TheJournal.ie today.
It would also not say when the recommendations made by the advisory group, which is being chaired by barrister Ita Mangan, would be made available to the public saying that this would only happen “at the appropriate time”.
A statement said: “The Group’s terms of reference provide for a range of issues to be considered including: child and family income supports, working age income supports, the appropriate unit of assessment in both the tax and social welfare codes, the interaction of the tax and social welfare codes, and issues concerning social insurance for self-employed people.
“Following Budget 2012, the Minister requested the Group to examine and report on the policy objectives underpinning the budgetary proposals relating to Disability Allowance (DA) and Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA).
“The Group’s report on this issue is currently being finalised and will be submitted to the Minister for Social Protection for her consideration shortly. Therefore, the report is not in the public domain.”
However details have been published in the Irish Time where Mary Minihan reports that there are currently just under 2,000 recipients of disability allowance who are aged between 16 and 18, costing the State just under €19 million.
A domiciliary care allowance of €309.50 per month is currently paid to parents or guardians of children with a disability until they are 18 when the teenager then starts to receive disability allowance, which pays a maximum of €188 per week.
Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the proposed cut could mean that a young person with a disability could be down over €6,000 a year but did not expand on how this figure is reached.
He said in a statement: “If the minister’s bona fide reason for proposing this cut is because she is concerned about making such a large social welfare payment directly to young people than the solution is to make the disability allowance payment to the parent or guardian until they reach 18 or to introduce a new higher rate of Domicialliary Care Allowance equivalent to the value of Disability Allowance for 16 and 17 year olds.”
On the proposal being leaked, Ó Snodaigh added: “Joan Burton is playing politics with the economy and with people’s fears, adding ”The fact that this kite has even been flown is a disgrace.”
The statement from the Department of Social Protection added: “The Group’s overall method of working is based on producing modular reports on the priority areas identified in the terms of reference.
“Where possible, the aim is to provide recommendations that can be acted upon in time for the annual budget, estimates and legislative cycle and to allow the Government to best address its commitments under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support.
“Decisions in respect of publishing reports of the Group will be made at the appropriate time.”