Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh (Atógáil) - Priority Questions (Resumed)

Rehabilitative Training Allowance Payments

Mick Barry

Ceist:

4. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health the reason for the decision to cut the rehabilitative training allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41501/19]

The Government cut the rehabilitative training allowance from 1 September, taking €31.80 a week away from young people and school leavers with disabilities. At the time, the Minister of State spoke about alternative plans. However, I did not see any alternative plans in Tuesday's budget. Perhaps they are buried in there and he can explain what he intends to do with that €3.7 million. It should go back to the young people, but I would like to hear his explanation.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to deal with this issue because there has been much misinformation in recent weeks put out by people for political reasons. The Government’s priority is to provide access to high quality day services for as many people with disabilities as possible. The HSE funds day services for over 27,000 people with disabilities, including day services and rehabilitative training programmes.

The HSE’s New Directions policy seeks to reconfigure and personalise HSE funded adult day services. It offers a flexible and individualised set of supports to enable each person to live a life of their choosing in accordance with their own wishes and needs.

Rehabilitative training programmes are designed to equip participants with basic personal, social and work related skills. Approximately 2,200 people attend rehabilitative training programmes, including the approximately 400 new school leavers who commenced their rehabilitative training programme in September this year. The rehabilitative training bonus payment is payable at a rate of €31.80 per week. It was introduced in 2001, aligned with a similar FÁS training bonus that later became the SOLAS vocational training programme payment. It is important to note that this payment was reduced in 2011 and discontinued in 2012, while, to date, the rehabilitative training bonus has continued to be paid in the health sector. Since September, the rehabilitative training bonus payment no longer applies to new attendees. Rather, the money that would have been spent on the bonus, estimated at approximately €3.7 million over four years, will be used to address unmet needs in day service provision for people with disabilities. There is no cut. The 2,200 people participating in the training programme receive the €31.80 payment per week. We can, therefore, bury that issue.

Members come here and talk about services. I will give them services. The redirected funding which the HSE has confirmed will be ring-fenced will be used to create – I hope the Deputy will listen to this point - approximately 148 additional full day placements or 370 additional enhanced day places nationally.

The Minister of State must conclude and allow Deputy Barry to come back in.

There is no cut in the rehabilitative training bonus payment. There is no cut in the number of rehabilitative training places available.

The Minister of State was not listening to me. I must allow Deputy Barry back in.

If the Minister of State raises his voice a little louder, he might convince himself. I do not think, however, that he has convinced the trainees and the staff in question. He accused them of giving misinformation. There was no misinformation given by the trainees.

I said it was the Deputy.

There was no misinformation given by the staff. It is a fact, as the Minister of State has just admitted, that those who commenced the programme on 1 September, approximately 400, no longer receive the allowance. It is not misinformation that the payment of €31.80 which would otherwise have been used to pay for lunches and travel to the training centres has been taken from new entrants. However, we must focus on the phrase used by the Minister of State, namely, that the €3.7 million taken from trainees will be used to address unmet needs. When will it be used to address unmet needs? The money was taken from the trainees on 1 September and for over a month that money has been sitting in a bank account or somewhere else. Will it be used to address unmet needs next week, next month, next year or the year after? Will the Minister of State be precise in his answer?

I will be precise and very clear. First, there is no cut in the rehabilitative training bonus payment. Second, there is no cut in the number of rehabilitative training places. Third, all rehabilitative training participants are eligible to receive the disability allowance of €203 per week and receive a free travel pass. No expectation of receipt of the rehabilitative training bonus payment has been created by the HSE, or anybody else, for the 2019 participants on rehabilitative training programmes.

On the money that will be reallocated for other services, I take the Deputy’s point that some people have concerns. The Minister, Deputy Harris, made representations to ensure the money would be ring-fenced. During the week I received a letter from Mr. Paul Reid, chief executive officer of the HSE, in which he said, “I am happy to confirm that the moneys accrued from the discontinuation of the rehabilitative training bonus payment will be used (1) to provide enhanced disability day services for the current recipients of day services that have been part of time placements and (2) to provide day services for those adults that will require a HSE funded service”. He also acknowledged that he would keep in regular contact with the Department of Health. My officials will keep in contact with him to ensure the moneys are spent on front-line services.

The Minister of State has said all trainees who go to rehab centres are eligible for and availing of free travel. Will he reflect on that comment? Will he say whether he stands over it? Is it correct that all trainees are eligible and availing of free travel? Second, I did not ask the Minister of State whether the moneys would be reallocated. I do not care how many letters he reads to me from Mr. Paul Reid or anybody else. The question I asked was when would the moneys be reallocated. The Minister of State has had this saving sitting in a bank account for over a month. Has it been reallocated?

Will it be reallocated today or in the future and, if so, when?

It has been reallocated. As soon as I receive information on the extra services which have been provided, I will be delighted to forward the information to the Deputy. As part of the budget, an extra €13 million has been provided for day service placements. All participants are eligible for free travel. If the Deputy has some information about somebody who has been excluded, he can forward the details to me and I will check them.

Question No. 5 replied to with Written Answers.