Ceann Comhairle, in May 2016 I had the great honour of being appointed Minister for Disability Issues – the first such Minister to sit at the Cabinet table. Not alone did I consider it an honour but I viewed it as a challenge. I set myself three goals. To reform, invest and put the person with the disability at the centre of our thinking and planning. I want to take this opportunity to highlight one of those areas today, investment.
Without investment we will struggle to reform. In the three years as Minister for Disabilities, I have secured extra funding of more than half a billion euro for disability issues. That has not been easy against many other competing priorities across Government.
This Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.
I am pleased that I have been able to both build upon significant existing resources and to obtain additional funding for disability services in the 2020 Budget. With these additional monies secured, the overall Budget for disability services in 2020 is in excess of €2 billion.
The increased level of funding in 2020 will enable us to continue to provide residential services to over 8,600 people with disabilities at more than 1,240 locations.
Upon taking office one of my priorities was to ensure that all young adults leaving school or rehabilitative training would have access to supports and services which met their needs at one of the most crucial transition points of their lives. Additional funding of €13m will provide supports and day services to approximately 1,600 young people with disabilities who leave school and training programmes next year.
I recognise the critical importance of respite for the loved ones and families of those with a disability. I am pleased to confirm that an additional €5m will be provided in 2020 to build the capacity of our respite services so that we can better respond to the changing needs of service users and their families. Specifically, this funding will provide intensive support packages for children and young people in response to the changing needs of service users and their families. This initiative will include intensive in-home visiting support, planned overnight, specialist behavioural support and extended day/weekend and day-based activities for families.
Sláintecare is centred around providing services and supports at the lowest level of complexity. An additional €5m in this Budget is provided for emergency protocols to support people with disabilities who have high support needs. This includes funding for emergency placements and the provision of intensive in-home support and respite packages, which are intended to delay the need for residential care for vulnerable service users.
An additional €2m will be provided in 2020 to support implementation of the Autism Plan, which includes a range of measures to improve services for people with Autism and their families.
A 100% Christmas Bonus will be paid this year to those on Invalidity Pension, Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance to name but a few.
Carer’s Support Grant of €1,700 will be paid in 2020 to over 126,000 carers. In addition, the number of hours that carers can work outside the home is being increased from 15 to 18.5 hours per week from January 2020. Over 1,200 carers are expected to benefit from this.
Blind Welfare Allowance will be exempt from the means assessment for Social Welfare schemes.
12,000 Housing Adaptation Grants will be provided to help people with disabilities and older people to stay in their homes. I have long since held the view that institutionalising people with disabilities is wrong and the measures I have brought in since 2016, and indeed this measure funded to the tune of €59 million, will go a long way to leaving those dark days well and truly in the past.
People with disabilities have benefitted from having an advocates voice at the Cabinet table. It has not been about personal honour or Mercs and Perks as they may have called it in the past. It is about being person centred, ensuring that the person with the disability and their carer where appropriate, are at the forefront of our thinking and planning. I believe that this Budget, the fourth in which I have been involved in as Minister, has shown my commitment to that.