Value for Money Review of the Disability Allowance Scheme

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1.1       Role of the Department & VFM

The role of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DSP)1 is to formulate appropriate social protection policies and it administers and manages the delivery of statutory and non-statutory schemes and services. The Department is responsible for the delivery of a range of social insurance and social assistance schemes including provision for:

  • Retirement and Old Age
  • Widow/ers
  • Child Related Issues
  • Illness, Disability and Caring
  • Jobseekers and Employment Supports

In the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection the VFM reviews are undertaken by working groups chaired at Principal Officer level and made up of officers from the policy and executive sections, other Departments as appropriate, and the Department of Finance.

1.2       Background to this Review

In 1996 responsibility for the Disabled Person‘s Maintenance Allowance (DPMA) was transferred from the Department of Health & Children to the DSP. When transferred to the DSP, the DPMA was replaced by the Disability Allowance scheme which was a contingency based scheme rather than a budget-led scheme. Since the introduction of the scheme in 1996 there have been many changes to the structure of the scheme. In addition the number of individuals claiming Disability Allowance (DA) has increased significantly since its introduction.

1.3 Purpose and Scope of this Review

The purpose of this review is to examine and report on the development of the DA scheme. It is necessary to examine the validity of the objectives of the scheme and to examine in particular the interaction of DA recipients and employment supports. There have been amendments to the DA scheme over time which have encouraged people to participate in employment whilst in receipt of the payment with the intended outcome of moving people off DA and back into employment where appropriate. It was intended that this review would incorporate and reflect the findings of the National Disability Survey, which would have provided valuable information on such issues as employment rates, participation levels and educational attainments etc. Given that the second module of the NDS was not published until February 2010 (having originally been scheduled for publication in 2008), its findings could not be substantially included in this review. Specific surveys of samples of DA claims have however been undertaken which provide a rich source of data on the characteristics of claimants of DA. These surveys were undertaken in 2009 and the analysis finalised early in 2010. While this report makes reference to more recent developments, the period covered generally is to the end of 2009.

1.4 Terms of Reference

The agreed terms of reference for this review are:

  1. Identify the scheme objectives;
  2. Examine the current validity of the objectives and their compatibility with the overall strategy of the Department, in particular the policy objective of supporting people of working age into employment;
  3. Define the outputs associated with the scheme and identify the level and trend of those outputs, with particular regard to the number of recipients of the scheme, and identify any information gaps that emerge.
  4. Examine the extent to which the scheme‘s objectives have been achieved and comment on the effectiveness with which they have been achieved.
  5. Examine the level and trend of coverage of the scheme with particular reference to forthcoming CSO National Disability Survey;
  6. Identify the level and trend of costs associated with disability allowance, discuss staffing resources associated with the scheme and comment on the efficiency with which the scheme is achieving its objectives;
  7. Examine the interaction with other income maintenance schemes, including Blind Pension;
  8. Evaluate the degree to which the objectives warrant the allocation of public funding on a current and ongoing basis and examine the scope for alternative policy or organisational approaches to achieving these objectives on a more efficient and/or effective basis;
  9. Specify potential future performance indicators that might be used to better monitor the performance of Disability Allowance.

1.5 Methodology & Consultation Process

In order to identify and examine the objectives of the DA scheme the following methods were utilised: An historical analysis of the scheme was carried out based on Departmental files, Dáil and Seanad debates and other relevant literature. Statistical analysis was provided by the CSO for the first module of the National Disability Survey and by the Statistics staff of the DSP to identify how trends in the DA scheme have changed over time. Submissions were invited from a number of organisations across the Disability Sector. A summary of these submissions is provided in Appendix 2. Surveys of DA claimant files were undertaken by staff of the DSP. These surveys were drawn from two separate streams of DA claims. In the first instance, a randomised sample of 1,000 claims was drawn from the general population of DA claims and sought to identify key data in relation to age, gender, claim duration, age of entry into the scheme and the medical conditions which gave rise to the claims etc. The second survey, again involving 1,000 claims, was drawn at random from amongst the smaller subset of DA claimants who were also engaged in employment. Along with gathering data similar to that identified in the wider general sample, it focussed in particular on gathering data on earnings levels and the types of employment engaged in.

1.6 Outline of the Review

Chapter 2 sets out the background to the introduction of the DA scheme in 1996 and sets out the key developments of the scheme in the interim. It describes the objectives of the scheme and assesses their compatibility with the wider objectives of the Department and with other key strategic documents such as the National Disability Strategy, the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion and the social partnership agreement, ‗Towards 2016‘. With the numbers availing of DA having risen from some 34,000 in 1996 to almost 100,000 in 2009, Chapter 3 seeks to establish the range of factors which have contributed to this sustained increase. Data on disability, including the outcomes of the survey of claims, are set out and analysed in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 examines the effectiveness of the mechanisms within the Disability Allowance scheme to support employment, drawing in particular on the survey of claims of those engaged in employment while in receipt of payment. Chapter 6 examines the contingency basis of the Disability Allowance scheme and a number of structural issues associated with the scheme. Chapter 7 examines administrative issues that arise with the delivery of the DA Scheme and also reviews some of the issues that were cited in the submissions by the relevant stakeholders. Chapter 8 sets out the conclusions and recommendations arising from this review.

Note 1 For ease of reference, the term DSP (Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection) is used throughout this report, notwithstanding the fact that the Department has undergone a number of name changes in the period under review.


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Last modified:25/11/2010