Petition raised in support of special need teens


LONG time contributor to The Irish Voice, John Joe McGinley, recently raised a petition for the attention of Minister for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte TD calling on her to end what he described as ‘the unfair treatment of special needs teenagers who are forced to transition from their much-needed Domiciliary Care Allowance to Disability Allowance whilst still in education. This is both unfair and discriminatory.’

John Joe (above), who, as we detailed in last month’s edition, set up his own website——to raise awareness of autism and to help other parents with children on the autism spectrum, spoke exclusively to The Irish Voice about the petition.

“I am the father of two boys on the autism spectrum,” John Joe explained. “Because of their lifelong medical conditions they qualify for Domiciliary Care Allowance, which is a monthly payment for a child aged under 16 with a severe disability. The child must need ongoing care and attention substantially over and above that usually needed by a child of the same age. It is not means tested. This is very useful to fund the myriad of expenses that result in providing them the best possible care and also seek private options for support removed by the state.

“When a child with special needs turns 16 under the current legislation in Ireland, he loses their Domiciliary Care Allowance and has to apply himself as an adult in his own right for Disability Allowance, which is a means-tested payment for people with disabilities who as a result of their disability are substantially restricted in undertaking work that would otherwise be suitable for a person of their age, experience and qualifications.

“As any parent of a child with special needs will tell you their condition does not magically disappear overnight and the process of applying for any support is both time consuming and a traumatic experience. It should also be remembered that a Disability Allowance application is supposed to be completed by the person applying i.e. the child. Many children with special needs at 16 find this impossible, especially those with autism where dyslexia and learning difficulties are a major part of the diagnosis.”

John Joe wrote to Anne Rabbitte TD in October 2021 and received a holding letter. Given the delay in reply, he decided that wasn’t a satisfactory response and so set up the petition, which he hopes will gain support and be presented to the minister. “I fully appreciate that once a child becomes an adult they should be judged as such, but children at the age of 16 are still at school,” he continued. “Their disability has not gone away. Legislators should at least change the regulations so that those still in education receive Domiciliary Care Allowance, then once they are finished with education and ready for work, they can be judged by the criteria used for the award of Disability Allowance.

“When a child is refused disability allowance, their special needs do not vanish overnight. Families continue to provide the care they have always given. The state can also review any carers allowance that is paid at any stage and in some instances remove this payment. Unfortunately for families the expenses remain, while the support from the state is now removed and disability services continue to shrink.”