239. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the recommendations that have been implemented further to the report of the make work pay group published in April 2017; the recommendations that have yet to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5486/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Make Work Pay report was published on 6 April 2017, following the deliberations of an interdepartmental group established under the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities. The interdepartmental group considered a range of approaches across relevant departments to deliver on this commitment and made 24 recommendations under the broad headings of: reconfiguring the system of supports to ensure that work pays; promoting early intervention; communicating effectively that work pays and future proofing.
A number of the report’s recommendations have already been implemented including:
- people with a long-term disability payment who move off the payment to get a job will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years (the report recommended retention for 3 years);
- a fast–track return to Disability Allowance, or Invalidity Pension for people where employment does not work out;
- and development is underway on a new “Ready Reckoner”, to calculate the net benefits and financial implications of working.
Other actions, such as strengthening the capacity of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s (D\EASP) Intreo Service to support people with disabilities to get and maintain employment are ongoing and people with disabilities may, on a voluntary basis, make an appointment with a case officer to explore their options and develop a personal progression plan.
In addition, amending legislation dispensing with the requirement, for disability allowance, blind pension and rent supplement under supplementary welfare allowance, that work must be of a rehabilitative nature has been included in Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Bill 2017.
On the publication of the MWP report, the Taoiseach, Minister for Health and I gave a clear commitment to consult widely in relation to a number of recommendations. This has led to initial consultation with the D\EASP’s Disability Stakeholders Group followed by the procurement of an independent facilitator and the holding of a number of facilitated focus groups. Following this, the D\EASP will now engage in an extensive consultation process in the first quarter of 2018 with people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities, and sectoral representatives, in relation to early engagement with people with disabilities on the recommendations 9 and 10 of the MWP report.
While the Government has decided to implement some of the recommendations, others require further reflection or a period of consultation with disability groups and other stakeholders. These include developing and extending interdepartmental and interagency protocols, including protocols with the range of State funded Disability Service Providers; developing a proactive communications/information strategy; and future proofing to ensure that the recommendations are reviewed on a regular basis.
In terms of recommendations that relate to the reconfiguration of the system of payments and supports to ensure that work pays, and in particular the proposed raising of the Medical Card earnings disregard from its current level of €120 per week for people on Disability Allowance or Partial Capacity Benefit associated with Invalidity Pension, the Department of Health is working with the HSE and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in order to assess the number of people that would stand to benefit under this measure and to examine the best administrative route to implementing this change. This work is expected to be completed shortly and it is the Minister for Health’s intention to implement the recommendation in early 2018.
A further recommendation in this area, dispensing the requirement that work be of a ‘rehabilitative nature’ for the Disability Allowance earnings disregard, has been implemented by the HSE.
The Department of Health is continuing to advance policy proposals in relation to a new Transport Support Scheme. The draft General Scheme and Heads of Bill for the Scheme have been circulated to the key government departments and have been the subject of consultation between the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is hoped to circulate a revised Memo for Government and General Scheme shortly, seeking approval for the drafting of the Bill for the new Transport Support Payment. Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 238.