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'A disturbing blow to human rights': Disability groups blast 'token' social welfare increase

Minister Heather Humphreys announced a €2.3 billion Social Protection budget today.

INCLUSION IRELAND HAS strongly criticised the government’s measures on disability supports in Budget 2024, labelling them as ‘tokenistic’ and ‘a disturbing blow to human rights’. 

Minister Heather Humphreys announced a €2.3 billion Social Protection budget today, with some specific payments for carers.

As well as an across-the board €12 weekly increase to social welfare payments, there is also to be a disability and carers’ lump sum of €400 in November. 

The current rate of Disability Allowance is €220 per week and Inclusion Ireland has said that it should at least reach the poverty threshold as measured by charitable organisations of €291.50 per week.

Inclusion Ireland CEO Derval McDonagh referenced the rate of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) paid during the Covid-19 pandemic as being the basic figure to “protect people from poverty” and noted that this is not reached by the Disability Allowance.

“The considerable gap between the €350 PUP and the current rate of €232 for the disability allowance sends a clear signal that disabled people are not seen as equals to other Irish citizens,” McDonagh said today.

McDonagh said it was a “disturbing blow to human rights” and criticised the lump sum as being “tokenistic once-off payments that ignore the plight of exclusion and inequality that exists in Ireland today.

“Budget 2024 has abandoned disabled people living well below the poverty line, and marginalised carers already carrying the weight of broken systems,” she said. 

Asked today about the criticism of measures for carers and those with disabilities, Humphreys said that “nobody will be worse off”. 

She also referenced a Green Paper investigation which examined potential reforms to disability payments to establish a three-tiered system based on different capacities. 

The Green Paper is currently out for public submissions and is unlikely to be implemented in the immediate future. 

“We look at three levels of disability, whether it’s profound, moderate or mild. The paper outlines very clearly that if you have a profound disability that your payment could increase by €45-a week. 

So I want to be very clear here, and I’m glad you asked the question, nobody will be worse off with the proposals that I bring forward in terms of people with disabilities.

Criticism of the government’s social welfare package was also echoed by Age Action Ireland, which notes that the €12 per week increase does not match inflation. 

“The core rate of the pension would need to be increased by a further €19, on top of the €12, to have the same spending power it had in 2020,” Age Action spokesperson Celine Clarke said today

“There is a once-off payment of €200 for older people living alone, but when that money is used up, the weekly income of many people living alone will once again be inadequate to meet their basic needs.”

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