Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Activating, Deactivating and the Unactivatable

February 27th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Disability, Irish Politics

The Department of Social Protection are currently inviting organisations to tender for hosting projects to support people with disabilities into employment in the Borders, Midlands and West region.

The strategic aim of the Disability Activation Project is to increase the capacity and potential of people on Department of Social Protection disability/illness welfare payments to participate in the labour market, based on a case management approach.

There is 20 plus years experience in supporting people with disabilities into training, education and employment in Ireland.  Many pilot projects, best practice examples, multi million euro grants including EU funds awarded, launches had and reports published  and able bodied professionals employed to support people with disabilities through programmes.

I don’t know what has happened to the grand sum of that experience or if people with disabilities have been asked themselves about what has worked or not worked and what the barriers are. The unemployment rate amongst people with disabilities who would be capable of work is reported to be 70% – it’s hard to gauge because many people are not on the live register.  Unemployment is not just about not being able to get a job but also about the lack of supports for the cost of disability, transportation and personal assistance deficits and attitudes of potential employers.

This new activation initiative is happening as it is reported that next month eighteen staff many of who have disabilities are being made redundant from positions heavily subsidised by the state (Wage Support Scheme) who are employed by Rehab.  The positions in a recycling plant in Galway are being made redundant due to losses incurred in the plant.  Michael Clifford reports in the Irish Examiner that the employee’s union claim that the decision on who will be let go will not take their disabilities into account.  Decisions on who loses their job will depend on “productivity, teamwork and communications, attendance and punctuality, disciplinary records”.

That’s 18 deactivations (I’m using the word with a deep sense of irony) despite heavy state support and no record of efforts by the state funded charity to redeploy staff or reorganise the focus of the plant which is what the union are asking for with the help of the local community.

In 2010, the last year for which complete figures are available, the group had an income, including charitable donations, of €187m, of which €54.4m came from various state bodies. The group recorded a net surplus of €2.3m, up from €1.9m the previous year. Net assets in the same period increased from €51m to €56m.

The Wage Support scheme which funds up to two thirds of the cost of an hourly wage supports about 800 people with disabilities to remain in employment in both the private and not for profit sectors and encourages employers to take people on.  The rationale for the payment is that it is paid to employers to compensate them for the imputed productivity loss that employing a person with a disability might result in.  The more disabled employees you hire the more money you get.  From up to €10,748 for a firm employing one person with a disability to €16,122 per employee with a disability in firms employing twenty three or more people with a disability. Plus you can get funding to hire someone to support disabled employees in a workplace.

And yet the scheme means you are easily disposable too when companies are downsizing. If you are less productive you can be let go and the government agencies can’t insist you are kept on instead of someone who is able bodied and possibly more adaptable.

The Minister for Social Protection has recently announced that all the various disability employment supports are coming under an Employability Service.  Perhaps this will remove some of the vested interests and ‘patch watching’ which has developed over the years and see standards of support and service improve.  Like many of the other supports for people with disabilities these supports including job coaching have been farmed out to outside groups  – maybe the new National Entitlement and Employment Service will be open to all with skilled support whether you are disabled or able bodied.  And in this not so improbable situation those people who do not have the capacity to work will also be valued and supported in society and not disposed of or viewed as inactive or a drain on the state.



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