Pre-covid-19, Census 2016 statistics already indicated that the level of labour force participation amongst people who are blind and vision impaired in Ireland was only a mere 24.4%.
Therefore, less than 1 in 4 people with impaired vision were actively participating in the labour force. It is safe to say the Covid-19 pandemic will have reduced the employment rate of people who are blind or vision impaired even further.
Several people who are blind and vision impaired are in part-time work. It is vital that they do not fall into a poverty trap, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, by losing their state benefits and returning to work on reduced working hours (short-time working).
The Government needs to:
- Ensure the minimum wage increases, the Wage Subsidy Scheme should also increase in the same manner, so people who are on short-time working hours are not losing out and falling into poverty. Introduce measures designed to retain in employment people with disabilities in their current jobs.
- In order to accommodate remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic, more funding needs to be provided to the Workplace Adaptation Grant, so an employee who is blind or vision impaired can set up an adapted office in their own home.
- The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection should extend the Workplace Adaptation Grant to those on Community Employment Schemes, so people who are blind or vision impaired who are participating on these schemes can continue to work remotely during Covid-19.
- The Department of Social Protection needs to engage with NCBI in relation to barriers in accessing Intreo services for people who are blind or vision impaired as the restrictions ease. We urge the Department to initiate a project that will increase awareness amongst Intreo staff of the challenges faced by people who are blind or vision impaired in terms of accessing Intreo services during the crisis.