For Oral Answer on : 03/02/2022
Question Number(s): 105 Question Reference(s): 5286/22
Department: Social Protection
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Social Protection the way that her Department is assisting those with a disability to avail of employment opportunities; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
My Department provides a wide range of income and employment supports which have been designed to assist both jobseekers and existing employees with disabilities, and employers seeking to hire a person or support an existing employee with a disability.
Both Disability Allowance and Blind Pension are structured to support recipients to avail of opportunities to pursue their own employment ambitions, be that self-employment or insurable employment. When an individual commences employment, they can avail of an income disregard of €140 per week. In addition, a 50% taper on earnings between €140 and €350 is also applied. This upper limit will increase to €375 from June 2022.
The Department’s Intreo Service is a single point of contact for all employment and income supports in the State. Intreo provides supports and services to both jobseekers and employers. Jobseekers, including jobseekers with disabilities, will gain assistance from case officers in accessing work and training.
The contracted Local Employment Services (LES) also deliver a case-managed employment service for all jobseekers, including those with disabilities, who avail of the services.
The Department recognises the additional challenges some jobseekers with disabilities may experience in securing and maintaining employment, and so contracts for the provision of services to help address these. Access to the service providers Employability is through referral from an Intreo Case Officer or LES Mediator. Jobseekers work with a job coach who provides pre-employment and in-employment support and assistance.
The Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) scheme allows a person who has been in receipt of Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit and who may not have full capacity for work, to enter or return to employment and continue to receive a partial or full payment. PCB has been designed so there are no restrictions or limits on earnings from employment or on the number of hours a person can work under the scheme.
The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme, allows recipients to retain a percentage of their social welfare payment for up to 2 years. Persons in receipt of a wide range of income supports, including Disability Allowance and Blind Pension, are eligible for the scheme.
The Department contracts the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability to deliver the Willing Able Mentoring and GetAhead Programmes on its behalf. These programmes provide paid work experience and other supports for graduates with disabilities seeking to enter or re-enter employment.
The Wage Subsidy Scheme is a financial incentive targeted at private sector employers and is aimed at encouraging the employment of people with disabilities through the provision of a wage subsidy. The rate of subsidy starts at €6.30 per hour and the amount of the subsidy is based on the number of hours worked.
My Department also provides the Reasonable Accommodation Fund. The fund is comprised of four individual grants. The grants are available towards costs associated with retaining or attracting people with disabilities into the workplace. They cover a number of items such as workplace and equipment adaptation, occupational capacity and workplace job assessments, training, sign language interpreter or other interpreters and personal readers. There is also funding available for disability awareness training in the private sector.
Finally in addition to the increase in the earnings disregards, I introduced a suite of measures designed to support people with disabilities as follows:
- An increase to the general weekly means disregard entry point for Disability Allowance from €2.50 to €7.60. The effect of this measure will be to increase the weekly rate of payment by up to €5.10 per week for Disability Allowance recipients who have means.
- An increase to the WSS base subsidy, from €5.30 to €6.30 per hour. The new rate is a substantial contribution to the employer’s wage costs. In situations where an employer employs between 3 and 6 employees, a 10% top-up is applied to the hourly rate increasing the payment rate to €6.93 for each employee. In the case of an employer who has more than 23 employees the payment rate will be €9.45 per hour for each employee.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.