Today, two important reports came before the Cabinet for consideration. The long awaited Report from the Advisory Group on Tax & Social Welfare concerning Disability Allowance and the Report from the DCA Steering Group on the Domiciliary Allowance Scheme
Special Needs Parents Association were involved since this time last year in a DCA Working Group which was set up by several disability organisations to look at the difficulties with the DCA Scheme. As a result, three representatives from the DCA Working Group were invited to sit on the Department of Social Protection DCA Steering Group along with representatives from the National Disability Authority, representatives from government departments and DCA Warriors, a parent DCA campaign group.
Chairperson Lorraine Dempsey who was one of the NGO representatives on the DCA Steering Group welcomed the publication of the Report on the DCA Scheme and hopes that Cabinet Ministers voted to adopt all of the recommendations outlined in the report. “There were no radical changes to the DCA Scheme recommended, but if the recommendations are implemented by the Department of Social Protection, parents should find the whole system more user friendly and the application and appeals process easier to navigate and more transparent”.
The new proposed scheme heavily reflects the input from parents and organisations that made submissions as part of the public consultation process carried out last Autumn. “it is important for parents not to have unrealistic expectations about any changes made to the DCA Scheme. There will still be applications that will be refused on the basis that the criteria has not been met, but we would envisage that the number of parents being awarded DCA on first application rather than having to go through a lengthy appeals process should increase” added Mrs. Dempsey. She also welcomed Minister Joan Burton’s comments today that her intention is that the administrative improvements recommended in the report should be implemented as quickly as possible.
The recommendations in the Report on Disability Allowance and the Report on the DCA Scheme both concluded that the age limits for DCA should be extended from 16 years to 18 years of age at which time an application can then be made for Disability Allowance. Any existing recipient of Disability Allowance between the ages of 16-18 will keep their current payment, the changes will only affect new applicants under the age of 18. Mrs. Dempsey stated that “I was surprised to find that 94% of parents in receipt of DCA who were surveyed during the review, agreed that the upper age limit should be changed to 18. When this was first proposed in Budget 2012, the public furor was fueled by ill-thought out comments from Ministers who described “wayward teenagers” with disabilities getting €188 a week. I think that parents should take into consideration that 40% of DCA recipients also receive Carers Allowance and some of those find themselves falling off of a financial cliff when their child turned 16 and did not qualify for Disability Allowance. They are more likely to maintain the same level of supports under the new age criteria until the child reaches 18, providing that circumstances haven’t changed”.
A very welcome recommendation is that the Advisory Group on Tax & Social Welfare felt it cannot recommend age-related reductions in DA in line with Job Seekers Allowance at this time, until it considers and examines working age income supports.