Disability and Change

More than one in seven people in Ireland have a disability, but despite the period of sustained economic growth in Ireland over the last decade pre-Covid which saw unemployment rates fall to circa 5%, outcomes for people with disabilities have been slow to change.

In Ireland, a person with a disability is just over half as likely to be employed as a non-disabled peer, with Ireland’s rate of employment amongst people with disabilities half the European average, and the gap between the employment rate of people with and without disabilities was also the second widest in the EU. Yet despite our stated ambition for greater employment for people with disabilities, for every €1 being spent on direct income supports for people with disabilities (things like disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind pension) the State is only spending 2.4c on employment supports (such as the employability service, partial capacity benefit and disability activation and employment supports).

Ibec and Employers for Change examined the barriers facing individuals with disabilities and employers as well as the focus and direction of public funds in this area to identify where the priorities are and whether changes in approach could yield better economic and societal outcomes for individuals, employers and wider society.

Improving employment opportunities for people with disability is a critical element for enhancing the quality of life for individuals and their families, but there are also substantial gains for organisations and the broader economy.

Employers have a key role to play in taking steps to recruit and retain people with disabilities in their organisations and a whole of government approach will also be essential as the current siloed approach means issues can fall between the span of different areas and fail members of our existing and potential workforce from fulfilling their potential.

We need to take a collaborative approach across both the public and private sector to ensure that the fundamental changes are made and that the essential supports follow the individual.

Recommendations detailed in the report include:

  • Greater investment in evidence-based employment supports is warranted to benefit individuals with disability, the economy and society
  • Reworking and updating the current grants system
  • Empowering the person with the disability to seek work with their supports in place
  • Increase the Subsidy Scheme for persons with a disability and removing the work threshold to enable more people with disabilities to access work, including on a part-time basis if that suited their need