2010 Pre-Budget Submission

Issued on October 1 2010


The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) is the national support organisation and advocate for voluntary disability organisations who represent and provide services to people with disabilities and disabling conditions, including hidden, intellectual, mental health, physical, sensory and emotional.

Budget 2010 is the ‘make or break’ test of the Government’s commitment to the National Disability Strategy (NDS). For people with disabilities in Ireland the NDS has been a major milestone, introducing a policy of mainstreaming and ensuring that disability is on the agenda of every government department and agency.

The vision for disability outlined in ‘Towards 2016’ is ‘an Ireland where people with disabilities have, to the greatest extent possible, the opportunity to live a full life with their families and as part of their local community, free from discrimination’.

People with disabilities, and the voluntary organisations working with them, are looking for this Budget to demonstrate the Government’s continued commitment to this vision. They seek new and innovative ways to work with public bodies to minimise the costs and stretch resources to the fullest extent in responding to the deficit in services that persist.

The Government’s promise to protect the most vulnerable, even in the current economic downturn, requires that decisions about Budget 2010 must consider and respect the priorities set out in the NDS. Any public expenditure cuts must not reduce services for people with disabilities.

DFI has identified four key recommendations to safeguard the rights of disabled people in Budget 2010:

  • Protect funding for disability-specific services and facilities;
  • Continue to improve access to mainstream public services for people with disabilities;
  • Recognise the role of voluntary disability organisations in achieving social inclusion for people with disabilities;
  • Maintain an adequate income for disabled people in recognition of the extra cost of disability.

1. Protecting Disability Funding

Budget 2010 must protect agreed priorities in the National Disability Strategy.

People with disabilities have already been hit by public spending and allocation decisions that are out-of-step with stated NDS priorities. Money for high priority disability services, through a €50 million Multi-Annual Funding Programme 2005-2009, was cut short last year and discontinued. More recently, a wide range of cutbacks in both disability specific and mainstream services used by people with disabilities have undermined the quality of life and the expectations of people with disabilities and their families.

Funding for disability-specific services is fundamental for people with disabilities to be able to have reasonable lives and participate in their communities. Funding for disability health services must be restored in the Budget, and protected against the raids from other budgetary contingencies experienced in previous years.

Voluntary disability organisations, who are major providers of disability specific services, have in 2009 been targeted by between 3% to 8% cuts in their public funding. Although the organisations have tried to absorb these cuts by minimising their administration, overhead and pay costs, they have simultaneously seen reductions in income from their other sources, notably fundraising.

Further reduction in public funding will impact significantly on direct service provision to people with disabilities. It is therefore essential that the Department of Health, the HSE and other departments with key disability responsibilities work closely with the disability sector in planning any further responses to fiscal pressures, based on the premise that the most vulnerable will be protected.

2. Promoting Mainstreaming

The 2010 Budget process must consider the impact on people with disabilities of all proposed cuts in social programmes, and act to protect this vulnerable group. Disability-proofing must be embedded into the decision-making process.

In the face of severe fiscal constraints, we can get better use out of scarce public resources by improving accessibility to mainstream services for people with disabilities. The NDS works to secure access to general services and, where appropriate, to integrated services across different providers.

Ensuring that services are mainstreamed and made accessible to people with disabilities where possible will be cost-effective and support a policy of inclusion and equality. Disability specific service delivery will be necessary in some cases but the long-term goal of the Government needs to be the development of inclusive services that everyone can use. This should be embedded throughout all public service reform.

Budget 2010 is the vehicle for ensuring that this mainstreaming project stays on course by supporting key initiatives that open doors for people with disabilities. Funding allocations and arrangements need to:

  • Require disability-proofing of social policy measures and disability services
  • Incentivise different departments and agencies to co-operate in planning to facilitate inclusive programmes
  • Support voluntary disability organisations to help make resources go further and to guide their service users to mainstream services.

3. Supporting Healthy Organisations

Government must commit to greater dialogue with voluntary disability organisations and to collaboration for better integrated, more inclusive service provision.

Voluntary disability organisations play an important role in providing health and personal social services, as well as advocacy and support to people with disabilities. In many cases the organisation was set up to raise awareness of a certain condition, and to meet the service needs of their clients either through State financial support or fundraising.

With one in ten people reporting a disability in Ireland in Census 2006, the value of their work in the delivery of core public social services, largely in the health area, must be recognised.

Voluntary disability organisations continue to fill gaps in State funding in order to provide key health services to people with disabilities. This is demonstrated in the Chart below where over half of the annual income of the organisations is raised through non-statutory sources. The services they provide range from the provision of respite and day care, as well the provision of specialised nurses, occupational therapists, physiological assessments, family support and home supports, to name but a few.

DFI strongly rejects the argument that there are too many voluntary disability organisations. Setting up an organisation is a last resort for family members who are frustrated by the lack of services and it is out of necessity, not desire, that they are established. Secondly, disability organisations bring to the services assets, in terms of volunteer expertise and commitment and independently sourced funds that complement any public contributions.

4. Income Support

DFI Recommendation: Disability and long-term illness payments should not be reduced below current levels in light of the disproportionate amount of poverty experienced by disabled people and the continued lack of a ‘Cost of Disability Payment’.

DFI welcomed the protection of disability income benefits in the recent budgetary adjustments as well as the improved disability and carers payments achieved earlier. People with disabilities continue to be significantly more at risk of poverty than the rest of the population, and DFI is strongly of the view that their benefits must not be compromised in future budgets.

Disabled people have a low rate of employment and depend to a high degree on the social welfare system. The Department has a responsibility for ensuring that those who cannot work do not fall below basic societal norms due to the extra costs routinely incurred because of their disabilities.

If the Department of Social and Family Affairs cannot act immediately to design a ‘Cost of Disability Payment’, we believe that cuts to illness and disability payments must not be considered. Disabled people, whose income is already eroded by costs associated by their disability such as extra heating or clothing, will be unable to absorb such adjustments without being pushed further into poverty and social exclusion.


DFI appreciates that the Government faces a difficult situation when planning Budget 2010. But undermining the investments already made to enhance the lives of a very vulnerable group of people, or failing to build the capacity of statutory and non statutory bodies to work together to best use resources, is short-sighted. Budgetary measures should not reject the Government’s accepted disability priority, nor burden those in society least able to bear it. Ireland cannot afford to cut loose from the National Disability Strategy at this time.

For instance, the Comptroller & Auditor General Annual Report 2007 revealed that €53 million allocated to disability and mental health services was diverted to overspending in other areas of the HSE. This meant that money voted by the Oireachtas to resource disability and mental health services never reached the people it was intended to support.

This was done without any consultation with the Disability Sector and was replaced by a (much lesser) €10 million package.

Since mid 2008 voluntary organisations have been subjected to a series of across the board cuts in their funding by the HSE and others such as the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The wide range of disabilities and the diversity of the consequent needs and capacities helps to explain the number of voluntary organisations that exist.

According to the CSO in 2006 24% 21% of people with disabilities were at risk of poverty and 9% experienced consistent poverty.

NDA (2004) Disability and the Cost of Living, National Disability Authority