Finian McGrath says he wants to see as many people with disabilities as possible in secure jobs with a good salary
Disability allowances will not be cut by this Government, the two Ministers with responsibility for the area have said.
The Irish Times reported in recent days that disability allowances could be reformed to link payments to an applicant’s ability to work.
It also reported that up to 2,000 teenagers could well be affected if proposals to increase the minimum qualifying age for the allowance are adopted.
Briefing documents prepared by civil servants for incoming Ministers raised the possibility of such reforms, but Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Finian McGrath, the super-junior with responsibility for disabilities, said they would not be cutting payments.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was also asked about the issue in the Dáil this week, but said the proposals are only contained in briefing documents, adding that such decisions are a matter for the Government.
A briefing for Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe argued that reforms to disability allowances should be considered as existing rules increase welfare dependency and increase poverty, not reduce it.
Income tests, medical and eligibility tests should be used to ensure that those whose “conditions improve” stop getting disability allowances, which raised echoes of the “fit to work” rules introduced in the UK since 2010.
Mr Varadkar said that the issue was primarily one for Mr McGrath, but added: “Certainly any reforms that do happen will have to be led by him and go through Government and will be targeted very much at including people with disabilities more in society, including them in the workplace, including them in the economy.
“We have no savings targets whatsoever when it comes to disability allowance or disabilit y payments.
“What we are not contemplating – which is what happened in Britain – is people being called in for capacity reviews and being told they have to. That’s not the route we are going down.”
Mr McGrath said that he wanted to ensure that at least 5 per cent of people with disabilities re-enter the workforce, higher than the previously stated target of 3 per cent.
Mr McGrath said that the 3 per cent target was “too low” and said that many talented people could enter the workforce.
The Dublin Bay North deputy also said his initial reaction is that he would not be supportive of increasing the qualifying age for disability allowance.
On the issue of people in receipt of the allowance re-entering the workforce, Mr McGrath said he wants to see as many people with disabilities as possible in secure jobs with a good salary.
“Obviously if that happened, we’d have a different debate,” he said.