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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019
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HSE accused of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' by cutting €31.80 allowance for students with disability

Organisations have said young people with a disability will have “a further barrier to equality placed before them”.

Conor Dillon said the allowance is a vital support for students like him.
Conor Dillon said the allowance is a vital support for students like him.
Image: Robbie Reynolds

CONOR DILLON IS one of around 400 students with a disability who will not receive a €31.80 per week allowance when they start their rehabilitative training programmes from next month.

The allowance is provided to school-leavers with a disability who take part in these training programmes, which aim to support students’ progression to further education and employment. The €31.80 is usually used to cover transport costs, lunches, or trips taken as part of their courses.

The HSE has decided new entrants into these programmes from September will not receive this allowance.

“I am very passionate about advocacy and human rights and when I heard that this allowance was going to be cut I was very annoyed and upset,” 21-year-old Dillon told reporters today.

Students who are already in receipt of the allowance will continue to receive it until they finish their training.

“This is a vital piece of money and I don’t think I should be discriminated against just because I am starting a rehabilitative course now,” he said.

Why do the rest of my friends on the rehabilitative course [who started before me] get the allowance and not me? I think it’s totally wrong and that is why I’m standing up here for myself and for other people in similar situations.

Ciaran Costello from Westmeath has been studying with the National Learning Network for almost two years and is in receipt of the weekly allowance.

Training Allowance for School Leavers with Disabilities 3 Conor Dillon and Ciaran Costello in Dublin today. Source: Robbie Reynolds

There is no bus service in the town where he lives and he used the €31.80 to cover petrol costs for the 20km drive 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 today.

“So please, anyone in the government, €31.80 is not a lot to pay for a student to go and get back into society.”

The HSE has said the funding for the allowance will be used to provide day services for people with an intellectual disability.

Joan Carthy, national advocacy officer for the Irish Wheelchair Association spoke on behalf of six organisations that are calling on the government and the HSE to reverse its decision. She accused the HSE of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

“There is so little money in the disability sector as it is, for them to be taking it from one place to put it in another is a huge insult to people with disabilities.”

She said it means a “huge amount” to the people who receive it.

“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.

The vast majority of young people starting these courses in September are teenagers and school leavers. Without this modest allowance many young people won’t be able to begin a rehabilitative training course.
Often, they will be left with no other option than to stay at home. The axing of this allowance is therefore completely at odds with the government’s employment strategy, which saw it increase the quota of people with disabilities to be employed in the public services from 3%to 6%.

“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. It is clear that, without this allowance, young people with a disability will have a further barrier to equality placed before them,” she added. 

Carthy said the decision was taken without any consultation with those affected and called on the Department of Health and the HSE to engage with the six organisations about a possible solution.

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