Cuts to Rehabilitative Training Allowance of €31.80 per week an ‘attack on the most vulnerable in society’

Down Syndrome Ireland strongly opposes the decision to scrap the rehabilitative training (RT) allowance, worth €31.80 a week per student, for new entrants which was announced earlier this month by the Health Service Executive (HSE). We call for a full reinstatement of this allowance which is an essential financial support that contributes to increasing participation in lifelong learning for students with disabilities.

One such student is Laura from Cork who for the past three years has used the allowance to help fund her participation in the Gaisce Awards, which is a personal development programme for young people aged 15-25 to dream big and fulfil their potential.

Laura, pictured, said: “I’m very annoyed because this is the money we use to help us do things like the Bronze Silver and Gold Gaisce awards. My friends have been saving the money to pay for a week in Waterford. We have to save it because it costs €380. Last year, we used it to go to Killarney for the Bronze and Silver awards. We use it for other activities as well like fitness classes. Some of my friends use it for their lunches as well.”

President of Down Syndrome Ireland, and Laura’s father, Liam Ahern said: “Many of our younger members and their families would be unaware of the RT allowance as it only impacts on those who are doing what is horribly termed ‘rehabilitative training’. My daughter Laura is on such a ‘rehabilitative training’ course and she has been away for the last five days participating in her Gold Gaisce President’s Award.

“A lot of the people in her class could not afford these activities without the allowance and they learn so much from them. For some, it’s part of the family income and in some cases, it’s why they stay on the programme.

“People with disabilities already face huge barriers in accessing further education and training when they leave school and it’s a disgrace that our own Government is denying young adults access to further training which would allow them to develop their life skills and further enhance their ability to live as independently as possible.

“Its loss will be another impediment to all the other impediments young adults with Down syndrome face already.  It’s shocking especially given that the savings will be just €3.7 million over a four year period. This is an attack on the most vulnerable in our society and we cannot and will not stand for it.”