AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity expresses its shock and dismay concerning the recent revelations from a Prime Time Investigates programme, aired on RTÉ Tuesday night, that saw up to 12,000 vulnerable people being denied access to payment of their social protection entitlements, disability allowance being among them. The issue as presented highlights serious moral, legal and ethical failings in the State’s treatment of those in our society who are most vulnerable. AsIAm calls on the State to remedy this wrong, by investigating why this occurred and to compensate individuals who have been affected by this.
Responding to these revelations, AsIAm CEO, Adam Harris said “These revelations are deeply concerning. Many people in our community rely on social protection payments from the State, such as Disability Allowance. These are essential payments for those who need them. Social protection payments, which have always been far below the cost of living, can create some sense of independence, and autonomy for recipients, and having access to a social safety net can go some way to protecting people into falling into extreme or absolute poverty.
“What we see happening in cases shown in this report, and many others like this, is a denial of this independence and autonomy for the sake of saving in real terms modest sums of taxpayers’ money. The State’s failure to both inform individuals about the payments they were entitled to and to pay these welfare entitlements is fundamentally wrong and an unjust attempt by the State to wash its hands of its responsibility. It sends the wrong message to individuals and their families and in particular those who have lived in residential settings.
He added “As a society we have a legal obligation to protect and uphold the rights of vulnerable groups. We are calling on the Government to remedy this wrong by conducting a thorough review into this issue and by offering timely compensation for individuals impacted by this unjust practice.
“At the heart of this issue, is the State’s approach to litigation. Autistic adults and families are frequently forced to the courts when seeking remedies for very clear breaches of rights by the State. The State must review its approach to litigation with an emphasis on human rights and doing-right by those who have been wronged and let down
“In our pre-budget submission, we called for an increase to the Disability Allowance payment, and we reiterate our calls for targeted increases to payments to support Autistic people and families better, financially. We have also asked for a review of the application process for Disability Allowance to protect the dignity of applicants and minimise their distress, including close scrutiny when these payments are denied. The figures from the Department of Social Protection show there is a significantly high success rate on appeal where a social welfare payment has been refused to a person. This needs to be examined”