Dozens protest as vital allowance is scrapped for disabled students
Hundreds of disabled young people will be unable to attend rehabilitation courses because of a vital training allowance being cut, campaigners claim.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside Leinster House yesterday for the third time to demand the restoration of the rehabilitative training (RT) allowance that was scrapped by the Government last month.
The weekly allowance of €31.80 aims to support progression to further education or employment.
Around 2,300 people receive the allowance, but it is estimated the cut will hit 400 students this year.
It is believed that as a consequence, many students waiting to start rehabilitative courses this month will be unable to do so.
Student Conor Dillon, from Swords, said being denied the allowance was like being denied a basic human right.
The 21-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and attends the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf, is about to start rehabilitation training to advance his education and skills.
"This is discrimination and I feel angry about it," he said. "I have written to Minister Simon Harris to ask for a meeting, but he has not responded.
"I am not going away until he reinstates the allowance or meets me to explain why not.
"There's a big difference now in the classroom. We should all be treated the same, whether we're in a wheelchair or able to walk.
"It's our basic right to educate ourselves, and to educate ourselves we need this allowance.
"I see this as a massive barr-ier for me and other people with disabilities. We just want to do the same things our friends do."
Research by Rehab found 90pc of students on its training courses could not have undertaken training without the allowance.
Training providers are rep- orting that people who expressed a strong interest in starting rehabilitative training have not pursued the option due to its withdrawal.
The HSE has said that ending the rehabilitative training bonus would yield €3.7m over a four-year period, which will be reinvested in disability day services.
"From September, the bonus will not apply to new attendees. This will have no impact on current participants," a spokesperson said.
"Importantly, the savings will be used to increase the number of days currently available to service users with part-time day service placements to full-time placements or to provide a day service for people that acquire a disability and require a service."