Tuesday April 18 2017 10:34 AM
On 6 April, the Government released a report “Make Work Pay”, designed to help people with disabilities and long term illnesses to achieve their ambitions and find work, and to remove the many barriers which prevent them from doing so. MS Ireland made a submission as part of the consultation process during the development of this report.
The report was launched by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection; Simon Harris, Minister for Health and Finian McGrath, Minister with Special Responsibility for Persons with Disabilities at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle. The report makes 24 recommendations, several of which will be acted on immediately.
Key recommendations include the following:
- People with a long-term disability payment who move off the payment to get a job will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years
- Significantly raising the earnings level disregard for people in receipt of Disability Allowance or Partial Capacity Benefit when assessing eligibility for a Medical Card
- Dispensing of the requirement that work must be of a ‘rehabilitative nature’ to qualify for the Medical Card and Disability Allowance earnings disregard
- A Fast-Track return to Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, the Medical Card and other supports for people where employment does not work out
- Development of a ‘Ready Reckoner’ to calculate the net benefits and financial implications of working
MS Ireland warmly welcomes many of the recommendations in the report and we are pleased to note that a number of the points made in our submission have been addressed. In particular we welcome the recognition of episodic and unpredictable conditions such as MS and the need to make it easier to reapply for supports if forced to suddenly withdraw from the workforce. We are also very pleased to note the focus on the Medical Card and how vital this is as a support for people with disabilities and long-term illnesses. The threat of losing the Medical Card can be a powerful disincentive to taking up employment and it is very positive to see the Government acknowledging this and taking measures to address it.
The report also makes a number of recommendations about communications from the Department of Social Protection and the role of the Intreo Centres in particular. MS Ireland had noted in our submission that there is a need for more training for Intreo Centre staff on working with people with long term illnesses and disabilities, a need for better systems for the Department to communicate key information to disability organisations so they can disseminate it to their members, and the need for named case workers in Intreo Centres to avoid people having to repeat information and processes. All of these points have been addressed in the recommendations.
Whilst the report is broadly extremely positive, some concerns still remain - whilst the proposal to raise the earnings disregard for Medical Card applicants on Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension is very welcome, the Government also needs to consider that people who do not qualify for these payments may still struggle on low incomes and rely heavily on the Medical Card. Therefore there is still a need for a more flexible Medical Card application process that takes account of the additional costs of living with a disability or long term illness.
You can read the full report here
The Executive Summary (including the recommendations) can be found here
Read MS Ireland’s submission to the Make Work Pay consultation