Publication - Disability Sectoral Plan July 2006 - 3. Policy - Meeting the needs of People with Disabilities


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3. Policy - Meeting the needs of People with Disabilities

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3.1. Introduction

Following the report of the Commission on the Status of people with Disabilities and the establishment group [5] , the concept of mainstreaming of services and income supports for people with disabilities has featured strongly in any discussion of the design and the delivery of services.

The concept of mainstreaming is an important one in the context of income support services. It implies that the needs of people with disabilities should be addressed within the broader range of income supports, with specific actions to overcome difficulties identified for people with disabilities such as take-up, higher poverty and lower employment rates and reduced employment incentives. The Department also recognises that measures to achieve other social outcomes, such as further education and developing life skills are important in any social inclusion policy. This is the approach the Department is trying to take in the development of this sectoral plan.

The Department's Statement of Strategy (published on the website www.welfare.ie) identifies six high level goals in the business of the Department as it relates to;

  • Retired and older people
  • People of working age
  • Children
  • Coverage access and entitlement
  • Poverty, Social Inclusion and Families
  • The Department and its staff.

These goals will allow the Department to align its main strategies and business planning with the life-cycle approach of the Developmental Welfare State [6] . The three main population groups: older people and those in retirement, people of working age and children, have different income support needs. Within each of these groups it may be appropriate to identify the needs of persons with disabilities who may face particular difficulties in terms of their personal capacity to earn a living, secure caring and avoid poverty. In developing policy to address the needs of particular groups, however, a number of key objectives set out in the Department's Statement of Strategy are particularly relevant in the context of this Sectoral Plan. These are outlined below.

3.1. Objective: Developing specific social welfare schemes for people of working age to ensure that they have an adequate, secure and sustainable income and related supports.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs is responsible for ensuring that the range and level of social security coverage is appropriate to the circumstances of different groups. Additionally, that the services for which people are eligible are readily accessible and delivered in an efficient, effective and integrated way, through direct provision to customers and, where appropriate, supporting agencies in providing services. The Department will work for the continued enhancement and integration of supports in line with overall social welfare commitments and targets.

A recent development which will have implications for the Department's delivery of services for people with disabilities is the Government decision to transfer income support and maintenance schemes currently administered by the Health Services Executive (HSE) to this Department. These schemes include the Domiciliary Care Allowance, Blind Welfare Allowance and Mobility Allowance. An inter-departmental group has been established to progress the implementation of the transfer of these functions. This transfer will allow for their provision within primary social welfare legislation as well as opportunities for scheme rationalisation and integration, in line with the Government's policy of mainstreaming. (See also sections 4 on Strategic Service Development and section 6 on Inter-Departmental Co-operation).

Income support comprises three payment types:

  1. Universal payments (e.g. child benefit)
  2. Insurance based payments which depend on payment of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions
  3. Social Assistance payments based on a means test

A range of secondary benefits is provided with insurance and assistance payments while the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE), provides a means-tested safety net payment. (See Appendix 2 for details of income support payments).

Social insurance has always been an important cornerstone of social protection policy, with social insurance coverage for certain payments being extended to additional groups over recent years, the introduction of new benefits and the reduction in the real level of earnings required to secure an insurable employment record. There are a number of strategic questions concerning the type of social insurance provision which is appropriate and whether new contingencies need to be provided for; whether the conditions for access need to be changed; whether access should be broadened further etc. However, the main focus of attention in the short to medium term will be ensuring that the current system adequately reflects changing labour market conditions and the requirements to balance work and caring responsibilities.

In relation to social assistance, the level of dependence on assistance payments has reduced as social insurance coverage has expanded. The social assistance system, like the social insurance system, is contingency based, which means that payments can be targeted and adapted to the needs of particular groups. This, however, involves a high level of complexity arising from the different rates, means tests, disregards, thresholds etc. which is a challenge.

The future structure of social protection and in that context, the appropriate balance between social insurance, social assistance and Universalist coverage is an issue which has been addressed in the recent NESC report on the ' Developmental Welfare State' [7] .

The improvements in the social welfare rates since 2001 have seen increases awarded at a cumulatively higher percentage than gross average industrial earnings. Budget 2006 increased payment rates by over four times the rate of inflation with the lowest rate increasing by €17 to €165.80 per week. This has benefited all social welfare recipients, including those in receipt of disability and illness payments. Recipients of Carer's Allowance received increases of over 17% in Budget 2006, bringing the weekly rate for a carer under 66 years of age to €180 and the rate for a carer over age 66 to €200 per week. The annual Respite Care Grant, which is paid to all full-time carers, also increased to €1,200 in June 2006.

Government policy as regards social welfare rates is guided by the commitment in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) and the new Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement [8] to increase the lowest social welfare personal rates to €150 per week (in 2002 terms) by 2007.

Research has shown that households experiencing joblessness or low income employment are most at risk of poverty and that those headed by a person with a disability are a vulnerable group in this regard [9] . A recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute has also shown that the consistent poverty rate amongst those persons reporting a chronic illness or disability is significant [10] . This study also refers to those 'in home duties', which would include carers of older people and people with disabilities, and found that households where the reference person is engaged in home duties also experience risk of poverty.

A number of factors could be considered as affecting these trends including:

  • The lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities;
  • Issues relating to the additional costs of disability which might reduce disposable income for people with disabilities;
  • The impact of extended durations on the social welfare system;
  • Differences in household composition among the group which increase the possibility that people with disabilities are in workless households.

Developing policies to improve schemes as well as analysing labour market trends and incorporating activation and employment objectives in the course of scheme reviews will thus be of great importance in meeting the objective of sustainable income.

With regard to family and informal carers who provide care for older people and people with disabilities, Government policy has placed an increased emphasis in recent years on supporting this group in their role of caring for and maintaining family members and relatives in their homes and communities. The primary supports from this Department for carers are the Carer's Allowance and Carer's Benefit schemes and the Respite Care Grant. ( See also Appendix 2 on income supports )

The Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Children through the ' Working Group on Long Term Care' to ensure the development of supports and services for older people. A process of structured consultation, on a cross-departmental basis, will be progressed with carer representative organisations and in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and other Departments, as appropriate.

Carers of older people and people with disabilities may also be a vulnerable group in that they may be unable to engage in full-time employment and may be at risk of poverty. Whilst in recent year, there has been an increase in female participation, mainly among married and older women, in the workforce, it has been estimated that this rise in female employment may reduce the supply of family carers by around 15% over the next 10 years [11] .

Women still frequently form the majority of those in part-time employment and carers in the home of older relatives and relatives with disabilities. This has an impact on their employment potential and earnings and consequently on their prospective pension entitlements.

Formal provision was made in 1999 for the award of credits to claimants of Carer's Allowance who have left insurable employment to engage in caring duties. This ensures that carers' Social Insurance records are preserved for Old Age (Contributory) Pension purposes. Further appropriate and timely interventions are necessary which support carers during their role as carers and, equally importantly, when their caring role has ceased.

The Department will continue to review the scope for further development of the Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit and Respite Care Grant having regard to the recommendations in the reports on Carers by the Equality Authority, [12] the Carer's Association [13] and Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs [14] and other available research.

Action Points:

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Ensuring that income supports and associated benefits do not create financial barriers to seeking, accepting or improving employment

Ongoing analysis of the incentive effects of payment levels and structure of schemes for people with disabilities along with the assessment of impact of such traps on actual participation activity

Changes to employment and training participation rates by people in receipt of disability payments. Yearly analysis completed for period 2007/2009. Make policy changes as required in budgetary context to provide incentives for greater participation.

Organisation

In conjunction with the Department of Education and Science, conduct a study on the impact of the payment of Disability Allowance from aged 16 years on education and employment incentives for young people

Complete study by quarter 4 2007. Implement policy changes relating to the age of qualification for DA if appropriate following analysis

Ensure that payments and supports to carers are efficient and effective, recognising their needs and adequately addressing poverty and social exclusion and are adaptable to the needs of carers in a changing care environment

Improve income supports for carers in line with the commitments in the Programme for Government

Review of Carers Allowance and Carers Benefit carried out and appropriate measures put in place

3.2. Objective: Engaging meaningfully with persons of working age, particularly marginalised and excluded groups and providing services directly and in co-operation with other relevant agencies to encourage and support the people concerned in taking up relevant work, training, education or development opportunities.

Since the early 1990s, the Department has been developing its policy to move from largely passive income support provision to a more active social welfare system in order to address issues of poverty and social exclusion and to make people more financially independent. The activities to achieve this objective have included identifying supports required to increase labour market activity and the potential of referrals to existing guidance services (e.g. FÁS/Health Services Executive) as well as co-operation with relevant departments and agencies to ensure that schemes designed to increase labour market activity are efficient.

There are a number of specific employment and training incentives available within the system to encourage and facilitate people, including those with illness and disability, to take up available work or training options. These include the Back to Work and Back to Education Allowances, as well as exemptions from the general "no work" conditions of the disability benefit and invalidity pension schemes, to facilitate people to undertake employment of a rehabilitative nature and income disregards on the means-tested Disability Allowance and Blind Pension. A number of initiatives are also in place which facilitates carers in maintaining contact with the labour market ( see also section 5 on Employment and Activation).

The model of activation outlined in the NESC Developmental Welfare State report[15] outlines a life-cycle approach, linked to activation measures, which puts less emphasis on contingencies (e.g. unemployment, disability, lone-parenthood) and more on facilitating progression, regardless of the circumstances which led the person to be in receipt of income maintenance. A proposal for a Social and Economic Participation Programme to be operated by this Department has been developed. This aims to promote participation and social inclusion, primarily through activation measures aimed at people of working age, including people with disabilities – section 5.6 of this Plan outlines this innovative proposal in some detail.

Action Points:

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Engage meaningfully with persons of working age, particularly marginalised and excluded groups and provide services directly and in co-operation with other relevant agencies to encourage and support these people in taking up relevant work, training, education and other development opportunities

Complete evaluation of Midlands Pilot Project

Develop strategy for multi-agency co-operation, based on learning from Midlands Pilot

Develop economic and social and participation programme

Evaluate the outcome on employment participation rates arising from the change to the withdrawal rate of DA for earnings in excess of the income disregard

Final evaluation completed September 2006

Completed by end 2009

Complete implementation by 2013.

Commence phase 1 2007.

Implement policy change if required.

3.3. Objective: Ensuring that schemes and services which support people with disabilities do so in a manner which facilitates their full participation in society and which meets the mainstreaming principle of the equality agenda.

The National Disability Strategy builds on the existing strong legislative and infrastructural framework for equality and also gives statutory effect to the policy of mainstreaming public service provision for people with disabilities. Extensive and sustained consultation with the disability sector has been a key influence on the development of the Strategy and will be a feature of the development of the Sectoral Plans.

A comprehensive regional consultation process has already been undertaken by this Department in conjunction with the National Disability Authority following the publication of the Outline Sectoral Plan. Consultation on the sectoral plan will continue via the Department's Disability Consultative Forum which comprises the principal organisations representing people with disability [16] .

Meeting the objective of full participation in society for people with disabilities will also ensure that they are facilitated in maximising employability and labour market participation as well as other forms of activation, including educational and life-skills development. ( See also section 5 on Activation and Employment).

Access to transport is an important pre-requisite for people with disabilities in participating more fully in society in general as well as facilitating access to employment opportunities. A number of Government Departments have responsibility for transport issues. For example, the HSE, under the Department of Health and Children, currently administers the Mobility Allowance which provides financial assistance towards transport costs while the Department of Transport is responsible for issues in relation to accessibility. As referred to in section 3.1, the proposed transfer of income maintenance functions from the Health Services Executive to this Department will provide an opportunity to examine those schemes which provide financial assistance towards transport (Free Travel, Mobility Allowance, Motorised Transport Grant, Supplementary Welfare Allowance) in a more integrated way.

The Rural Transport Initiative, managed on behalf of the Department of Transport by Pobal (formerly Area Development Management) is providing funding on a pilot basis for community transport groups to address the transport needs of people in their areas through the provision of local transport services. The DSFA is contributing €850,000 for the initiative in 2006 ensuring that free travel pass holders continue to have full access to community based transport services.

The objective of the Free Travel scheme, which is administered by this Department, is to encourage older people and people with disabilities to remain independent and active in the community, thereby reducing the need for institutional care. The scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible, including road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as LUAS, Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as services provided by over eighty private transport operators. The vast majority of private contractors providing a service under the scheme operate in rural areas.

The Department will continue to review the operation of the Free Travel scheme, address potential anomalies and identify the scope for further improvements, as resources permit

Action Points:

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Ensure that schemes and services which support people with disabilities do so in a manner which facilitates their full participation in society and which meets the mainstreaming agenda

Continue to engage in a consultative process with people with disabilities following the publication of the sectoral plan.

Hold regular meetings of the Disability Consultative Forum to review the implementation of the sectoral plan and other issues, as relevant

Continue to review the operation of the Free Travel Scheme and identify scope for further improvements and/or rationalisation in the context of any transfer of HSE functions

Changes to Free Travel Scheme implemented if required Rationalisation and Integration of schemes addressing costs of transport in context of HSE transfer

3.4. Objective: Ensuring income supports and associated secondary benefits do not create financial barriers to seeking, accepting or improving employment.

With regard to this objective an analysis will be undertaken in relation to the incentive effects of payment levels and structure of schemes along with the assessment of employment participation activity and the removal of unemployment, inactivity and poverty traps through appropriate scheme changes or the provision of in-work supports. The impact of the payment of Disability Allowance from sixteen years on the decisions made by young people in this age group is relevant. Also, working cross-departmentally to identify and address wider poverty traps beyond the social welfare system. ( See section 6 on cross-departmental co-operation).

The underlying cost of disability can also be higher for many people with disabilities. The 'Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities' recommended the introduction of a Cost of Disability Payment and a recent review by this Department of illness and disability payments [17] , supported the view that the costs of disability should be met separately rather than through higher basic income maintenance payments which would not be targeted at those with greatest need. The report further stressed the importance of meeting these costs in a way that is less dependent on labour force status if people with disabilities are to be given the opportunity to participate in the workforce [18] .

A working group established under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) with cross-departmental membership and chaired by the Department of Health and Children, examined the feasibility of the introduction of a Cost of Disability payment [19] and concluded that, in the absence of a process of assessment of need and comprehensive data relating to disability, it was not feasible to introduce such a payment at this time. However, in terms of ensuring adequate levels of income for people with disabilities, the Department will work for the continued enhancement and integration of supports in line with overall social welfare commitments and targets. This will include a rationalisation of existing allowances for people with disabilities in the context of the Government's policy of mainstreaming and the proposed transfer of functions from the HSE to this Department ( See also section 4 on Strategic Service Delivery and 6 on inter-departmental co-operation). Other issues around cost of disability will be considered following the development of the needs assessment process provided for under Part 2 of the Disability Act, 2005.

One recent development in addressing the barriers that exist for people who wish to undertake or increase their employment, as part of the social welfare Budget package 2006, is a change to the withdrawal rate of Disability Allowance and Blind Pension for income in excess of the current earnings disregard level.

This change, effective from 1st June 2006, will mean that earnings above the current income disregard of €120 per week and below €350 per week will be assessed at 50%, rather than the 100% assessment as has applied. For a single person, this will mean that they can earn up to €390 per week before Disability Allowance/Blind Pension is fully withdrawn. The outcome of this change will be monitored to assess its affect on increased employment participation and to identify any further policy changes required.

Action Points:

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Ensuring that income supports and associated benefits do not create financial barriers to seeking, accepting or improving employment

Ongoing analysis of the incentive effects of payment levels and structure of schemes for people with disabilities along with the assessment of impact of such traps on actual participation activity

Changes to employment and training participation rates by people in receipt of disability payments. Yearly analysis completed for period 2007/2009. Make policy changes as required in budgetary context to provide incentives for greater participation.

In conjunction with the Department of Education and Science, conduct a study on the impact of the payment of Disability Allowance from aged 16 years on education and employment incentives for young people

Complete study by quarter 4 2007. Implement policy changes relating to the age of qualification for DA if appropriate following analysis

Ensure that payments and supports to carers are efficient and effective, recognising their needs and adequately addressing poverty and social exclusion and are adaptable to the needs of carers in a changing care environment

Improve income supports for carers in line with the commitments in the Programme for Government

Review of Carers Allowance and Carers Benefit carried out and appropriate measures put in place

3.5. Objective: Preparing and monitoring of the implementation of the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion)

The Office for Social Inclusion (OSI), which is located within the Department of Social and Family Affairs, is the Government Office with overall responsibility for developing, co-ordinating and driving Ireland's NAP/inclusion.

People with disabilities face many barriers to participation and require a multi-faceted and multi-agency response. The National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion) sets out the framework for the Government's response to these problems and comprises the range of policies and programmes, along with specific targets and actions, aimed at reducing or eliminating poverty and social exclusion. The OSI works closely with senior officials in relevant Government Departments in monitoring and evaluating progress against social inclusion targets.

The plan specifically targets people with disabilities as one of a number of groups who are particularly vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion. There are indications of progress against the over-arching commitment in the plan to increase the participation of people with disabilities in work and in society generally. Progress to date against more specific targets has been varied, for example, while participation in third level education by students with disabilities will reach its 1.8% target level by 2006, the unemployment level for disabled persons is still higher than the national average. Some progress has been made in the development of accessible transport services for people with disabilities.

Following an extensive consultation process, a new Action Plan (2006-08) is being prepared at present by the OSI. The consultation process confirmed that persons with disabilities still constitute a group that is most vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion and that services for people with disabilities need to be improved and to be delivered in a more integrated fashion. The next Plan will have a specific focus on people with disabilities and will contain targets to take account of the findings of the OSI's consultation process. The overall aim for people with disabilities is to increase their participation in work and society generally, and to assist them and their families to lead full and independent lives.

The Office for Social Inclusion is also developing a data strategy, designed to ensure that the necessary data is available for monitoring, evaluation, policy prioritising, targeting and overall policy development. One element of this strategy is the identification and filling of data gaps which prevent proper measurement of progress against the targets contained in the NAP/inclusion.

OSI has identified continuing significant data gaps for vulnerable groups, including people with a disability, and is currently consulting with Government Departments to identify how these gaps can be filled. Another issue in relation to data is the exclusion of a direct question on disability in the EU-Survey of Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), other than where someone's principal economic status is given as "ill or disabled". This may have an impact on the ability to assess the extent to which poverty reduction targets are being met for people whose labour force status is not "ill/disabled" and is an issue for discussion at EU level when the EU-SILC questionnaire is being reviewed later in 2006.

OSI has also engaged the Economic and Social Research Institute to produce a series of "Social Portraits" of vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. This project involves the collation of statistical information available from different sources, which in turn will give a comprehensive picture of the socio-economic situation of key vulnerable groups.

Action Points

Objective in Strategy Statement

Activities Proposed

Performance Indicators

Prepare and monitor the Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion (NAP/inclusion) 2006-08

Ensure that there is clear knowledge and understanding of the nature, extent and causes of poverty and social exclusion and the strategies to address it

Work with Departments and Government Agencies in determining their objectives and priorities having regard to the outcome of research and consultation with stakeholders and the assessment of the existing plan by the EU.

Ensure that objectives, priorities and costed actions to implement them are identified on a departmental basis in good time.

Promote cross departmental linkages to promote the effective delivery on shared government policy.

Develop an effective consultation process with groups and committees engaged in policy, the Community and Voluntary sector and promote the involvement of people experiencing poverty and disadvantage in the process.

Development of technical supports necessary to underpin and develop the NAPS, including a data strategy, poverty proofing guidelines and co-ordinated research in consultation with the Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI) and the Combat Poverty Agency (CPA)

Input to national partnership process.

Publication of NAP/inclusion for EU completed by quarter 3 2006.

Strategy to fill in data gaps Completed by end 2007

Implementation of Poverty Proofing guidelines. Rolled out by quarter 1 2007.

Analysis of ESRI/CPA research. Completed by 2009.


Footnotes:

[5] A Strategy for Equality, Report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities, (1996)

[6] NESC Report 113 , (2005) Developmental Welfare State

[7] NESC ibid

[8] Towards 2016 Ten Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement (2006-2016)

[9] Living in Ireland Survey 2001

[10] Gannon B and Nolan B, Disability and Social Inclusion in Ireland, ESRI 2005

[11] Mercer Limited, 2002, Study to Examine the Future Financing of Long-Term Care in Ireland

[12] Equality Authority (2005), Implementing Equality for Carers

[13] The Carers Association (2005) Towards a Family Carers Strategy

[14] Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs (2003), Report on the Position of Full Time Carers

[15] NESC, ibid

[16] Membership of the Disability Consultative Forum: Inclusion Ireland (formerly NAMHI); Disability Federation of Ireland; Federation of Voluntary Bodies, Mental Health Association; Irish Wheelchair Association; People with Disabilities in Ireland; Forum of People with Disabilities; Comhairle; National Disability Authority and the Health Services Executive

[17] Report of the Working Group on the Review of Illness and Disability Payment schemes DSFA (2003)

[18] Report of the Working Group on the Review of the Illness and Disability Payment Schemes, Stationery Office, 2003

[19] Membership of this group comprises Department of Health and Children (Chair); Department of Social and Family Affairs; Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Department of Finance; Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the Health Services Executive and the National Disability Authority.


Last modified:08/09/2009
 

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