Newsletter December 2011
Issued on December 5 2011
By the start of next week the Government will have taken further decisive actions to mend our broken economy. These decisions may widen the exposure and vulnerability of people and families living with disabilities or mental ill health. Alternatively, they may ensure that Ireland maintains and develops its support for those living with a disability or mental ill health.
At this time it is important to remember that investment over the last decade has reduced the very significant disadvantage that people with disabilities experience. The model of people leading independent and productive lives in the community has progressed a great deal. However, since 2008 the successive cumulative cutbacks on both the incomes and services on which people with disabilities depend are putting that investment in jeopardy. People with disabilities cannot survive in the community without adequate access to social and public services.
People with disabilities and mental ill health are not a distinct group unaffected by the general attrition caused by the recession. Disability visits individuals and families indiscriminately, and it comes on top of whatever other difficulties they find themselves in. It is difficult enough for people to have to face this extra challenge in the good times, but, as the recession cuts deeper and deeper into service provision and income supports, people urgently need the leadership and resolve of Government in order to be able to keep going. The “disabled” are not an airtight category. We all know that disability happens; it is part of human life. Protection for people with disabilities provides a safety net for everyone.
The Programme for Government commits to “tackling Ireland”s economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced and which recognises the need for social solidarity”. People with disabilities have already been subject to the cuts in income and services that have applied in recent budgets. We remind Government that social solidarity requires that these disabled people, who are found right throughout our society and in every age group and situation, are protected from a double or extra hit.
In making budgetary decisions the Government needs to consider where the welfare state will be in three or four years” time. Will the community model be sustained, or will disabled people increasingly be forced to resort to hospital and other high cost institutional care, because they lack the income and supports to stay healthy and living in the community?
We are hearing accounts day in and day out of how people on the ground are struggling to find some level of certainty in their lives. Many people are distressed, not just with the challenges of dealing with their disability, but with the threat of further cutbacks and uncertainty. We urge the Government, through the forthcoming budget statement and Finance Bill, to restore some level of certainty in the lives of these increasingly vulnerable people.