The country was a bit taken aback and none more so than those with disability, their families, carers and supporters, and those working within the disability sector. The rehabilitative training, RT, allowance facilitates independence and recognises those who are working hard to better themselves. In turn our economy and community benefits from them. We get new workers, new skills and new talents. It is certainly not charity. We benefit the most from when people with disabilities like the rest of us are accommodated into the workforce and into society.
The training allowance has been debated in the lower House. I have done my homework and I hope the Minister of State has also. I do not wish to sit here and read the same script I could read on kildarestreet.com. I hope the Minister of State will progress the debate and answer the questions I pose here today.
Sinn Féin launched our alternative budget this morning. We make ten pledges for disability all of which are costed. Out of those ten we are proposing €3.7 million for the reinstatement of RT allowance.
The first rationale the Minister of State gave in the Dáil for phasing out this payment was to bring equity and consistency between people with a disability attending HSE-funded training programmes who receive the payment and those attending similar HSE-funded day services or other State schemes such as further education and training. Surely another option is to extend the payment to similar HSE schemes.
In a similar vein, he said the redirected funding, amounting to €3.7 million over four years, will be ring-fenced to facilitate 140 full day placements or 370 enhanced day places nationally based on priority of need. This pits one person against another when they are affected by the policy. I can think of several less worthy waste-of-money projects, including the mismanagement of the national children's hospital, the money for which could have been used to retain the training allowance and provide new day placements. It is unfair and quite underhanded to pit these two against each other - divide and conquer is the old adage.
Before the Minister of State says that we are in opposition and the Government has to take tough decisions and uses other spin, I point out that in our alternative budget we have stated that we will reinstate the allowance. He might say that it is an extra. It is true that some families will be able to replace the €31 to allow their young adults to get late-night transport, meet friends and ultimately develop their lives so that they are independent, but many more families are stretched and will not be able to pick up this slack for the Department.
In these cases, the Government has taken away their only resource to gain independence, socialise and practice life skills needed for the workforce. They will lose out and so will we. We constantly talk about equality and inclusion and yet here we are battening down the hatches and taking a badly needed allowance away from individuals who need it and who are among the most vulnerable in society. I urge the Minister of State to reconsider.