One of biggest barriers to employment for people with disabilities has been removed

People on Disability Allowance will be allowed earn €427 a week and keep medical card

The amount people can earn while still holding on to their medical card has been boosted by more than 250% – which is a move we in Down Syndrome Ireland, as well as parents and other disability organisations, have long lobbied the Government for.

Fear of losing a medical card was identified as “the single greatest barrier” to work in the Government’s “Make Work Pay” report which was published in 2017.

From the 1st December 2018, the medical card earnings disregard for people in receipt of Disability Allowance will be significantly increased, from €120 to €427 per week. It will apply to the assessment process for both single people and to family assessments.

As such, people with disabilities can now earn €22,000 a year before their medical cards are taken off them. Currently, those on Disability Allowance can only earn €6,000 before their entitlement to the card is removed.

Speaking at the announcement last week, the Minister of State with special responsibility for disabilities, Finian McGrath, said an overriding objective of disability policy is to provide the person with a disability the opportunity to live a full and independent life with their family and as part of their local community.

He continued: “[This announcement] supports that objective as access to paid employment is one of the greatest ways of allowing people to achieve this. I firmly believe that this objective is very important for each and every citizen of this country, and I will continue to work, as Minister, towards removing the barriers to employment for people with disabilities who wish to work.”

DSI’s Ability Programme

Down Syndrome Ireland has been campaigning on this issue for many years and see it as a big step forward for people with Down syndrome entering the workforce. At the moment in Ireland, less than 5% of people with Down syndrome have meaningful paid employment and we in Down Syndrome Ireland are working to change that.

We launched our Ability Programme in September to break down barriers and give people with Down syndrome access to meaningful paid employment. Watch a video which explains more about the Programme here.

If you would like to find any further information about our Ability Programme, please contact Lisa Martin at

While we welcome any move that will make it easier for people with Down syndrome to access meaningful paid employment, we cannot ignore the remaining barriers that people with Down syndrome may face.

Wage Subsidy Scheme Shortfalls

At the moment, employers who employ a person with Down syndrome can avail of a wage subsidy scheme (WSS). It provides financial incentives to private sector employers to employ people with a disability who work 21 hours per week or more. The rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour and the amount of the subsidy is based on the number of hours worked.

There are additional costs and support required and the financial incentives provided need to recognise that.

As such, we believe that private employers who employ people with Down syndrome should be able to avail of the WSS no matter how many hours a person works.

You can find out more about the Wage Subsidy Scheme here

Decoupling the disability allowance from unemployment assistance and benefits

We are also calling on the Government to decouple the disability allowance from unemployment assistance and benefits. In an environment where we are reaching full employment there is a real opportunity for the Government to enable people with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, to contribute to the economy and access employment without the fear of losing their benefits.

We are asking for three-year protection of the benefit.

How to apply for Medical Cards

Anyone in receipt of the payment, and who does not currently have Medical Card eligibility, can apply either online or by completing an application form.

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