O’Brien hits out at HSE cuts to disability training programme

21st August, 2019

Green Party Councillor Joe O’Brien has hit out at the HSE plan to abolish a training support allowance for people with various types of disabilities. After visiting the Reach Group at the BEAT Centre in Balbriggan he made the following statement:

Today I met with workers and trainees of the Reach Group which is based on the BEAT Centre. I think it’s very clear that the HSE and indeed the Minister has not sat down with people who have benefitted from the training allowance they are planning to abolish. The people I spoke to face huge challenges, barriers and prejudices in trying to live a normal life. What was very clear to me is that programmes like that offered by the Reach Group are hugely important in helping people make that first very daunting step into the wider world where they get to learn and challenge themselves in a safe and supported environment.

Central to the programme offered by the Reach Group is the Rehabilitative Training Allowance. The Rehabilitative Training Allowance facilitates trainees to carry out activities and trips outside of the training centre – this is absolutely crucial in building the life skills and confidence of the trainees and facilitating greater social integration. The Training Allowance is key to preventing institutionalisation and social isolation. The HSE will quite frankly further isolate and disempower one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our community with this proposed cut.


“The government should be maximising the opportunities for the trainees to make their own choices”

Paradoxically this move is contrary to government policy. The government should be maximising the opportunities for the trainees to make their own choices, to feel included in their community and to develop their independence. This is the so-called person-centred New Directions approach. But clearly taking €33 a week off these vulnerable people is more important.

I am also asking anyone who reads this to show some solidarity with this vulnerable group and write to the Minister to ask him to reverse this regressive and damaging cutback plan.

A neighbour of Cllr. O’Brien’s is John Kennedy who has benefitted from the Rehabilitative Training Allowance. Mr Kennedy stated that ‘the allowance was very important to me as it allowed me to participate fully in the Reach group trips and it meant I didn’t have to worry about expenses which to many are small but if you don’t have the money it can be a big barrier”.

Mr O’Brien has written to the Minister for Health to ask him to reverse the decision to abolish the allowance.

Members of the Reach Group on a recent trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Trips like these would not be possible with the Rehabilitative Training Allowance.

Pictured above is Cllr. O’Brien with John Kennedy a trainee at the Reach Group. John has previously benefitted from the Rehabilitative Training Allowance.