‘It makes it harder to live’: Opposition to government-proposed disability welfare reform discussed at TCDSU town hall

Union members are seeking official opposition to the government’s Green Paper on disability welfare reform

The government-proposed Green Paper on disability welfare reform would “make it harder for someone with a disability to live”, a Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) town hall heard last night.

A motion to oppose a government-proposed Green Paper on disability welfare was to be brought to council, but was unable to be voted on after council failed to reach quorum.

The motion was proposed by TCDSU President László Molnárfi, and seconded by Disabilities Officer Keely Jenkinson and Welfare and Equality Officer Aoife Bennett.

The government’s Green Paper on Disability Reform, published late last year, proposes reform of the allocation of disability welfare allowances and creating a three-tiered system of payment on the basis of the “nature and impact” of a person’s disability.

A person with a disability would be medically assessed by someone employed by the Department of Social Protection to determine their “capacity to work”, and based on the result of this evaluation, a corresponding welfare payment would be allocated.

These proposals have come under significant criticism by prominent disability rights activists, who claim that it does not adequately address social barriers to employment and integration, and is “dehumanising and degrading”.

The motion said that “there are over 2,000 or so students with disabilities at our College” and that many “have raised serious concerns” about the substance of the Green Paper.

Jenkinson said it would create strong restrictions on the lives of people with disabilities.

“It’s gonna basically make it harder for someone with a disability to basically live,” she said.

“This is a carbon copy of the Tory policy.”

Molnárfi also noted the Green Paper sees “people with disabilities in an economic way”.

It further claimed that the Green Paper breaches Article 33.3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (UNCRPD), which states: “Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.”

“The Green Paper fails to acknowledge the existence of systemic barriers hindering access to employment for disabled individuals and has been likened to similar neoliberal policy that was introduced by the Tories in the UK,” the motion said.

A published Green Paper is not yet government policy, but instead is a document designed “to encourage thinking and discussion, and to prompt suggestions”.

Public consultation on this paper ends on March 15, having been extended by Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphries due to controversy surrounding the paper.

Additional reporting by Kate Henshaw, Charlotte Kent, Evan Skidmore O’Reilly, Stephen Conneely, Gabriela Gazaniga, Conor Healy, Madison Pitman and Emily Sheehan.