The concept of “cost of disability” can be defined as the amount it costs a disabled person to achieve the same standard of living as a non-disabled person. It is recognised nationally and internationally that people with disabilities incur many extra living costs as a result of their disability, for example; heating, disability aids and equipment, medical and drug costs, care costs and transport costs.
In line with the commitment contained in the Programme for Government, when complete, the research will provide a valuable input to inform policy direction, from a whole-of-Government perspective, in relation to the adequate provision of supports to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Specifically, the research will be expected to consider whether objectives can be met through financial support (for instance as a supplement to the current income support system), through service provision or through other supports.
This issue is considerably wider than the income support system and will not be addressed through income alone which is why a whole-of-Government perspective needs to be taken.
The Department has commissioned Indecon International Consultants to carry out this research and work is nearing completion. The research is looking at three main items. First, it examines the conceptual underpinnings of a “cost of disability”. Second, it analyses what would be a reasonable estimate of a “cost of disability” in varying circumstances for people living in Ireland. Third, it examines the implications for public policy and service delivery.
The research will provide quantitative estimates of the cost of disability using a number of approaches. Indecon’s work programme to date has included the following elements:
A review of existing international research, including approaches to defining ‘cost of disability’ and government responses to costs of disability.
Analysis of detailed datafiles of the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) and the Household Budget Survey (HBS).
An extensive stakeholder engagement with disability representative organisations, including invitation to make submissions.
In addition, a comprehensive survey of people with disabilities was undertaken. The survey was sent in paper format to a random sample of over 34,000 individuals in receipt of disability related payments. The very large sample is designed to ensure that the different costs incurred by individuals with a disability are taken into account. This survey was designed in consultation with a wide range of disability representative bodies and aimed to provide individuals living with a disability an opportunity to contribute directly to the research. An accessible survey was specifically designed, in conjunction with the National Council for the Blind Ireland, for those in receipt of the Blind Pension. The survey was also available online.
The high number of responses, approximately 4,700, makes this, to Indecon’s knowledge, the largest survey of its kind of individuals with disabilities undertaken in Ireland.
This is an important piece of work and it would be premature at this point to give any commitments regarding the allocation of public expenditure towards existing or additional payments while awaiting the outcomes of the research. I look forward to receiving the completed report shortly.
I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.