Ireland: Calls for Publication of Reports on Disability Sector

Europe, July 8 2021

An Oireachtas committee has called for the publication of two reports to inform the Government how the disability sector needs to be funded in advance of the budget.

The Indecon Report, which examined the cost of having a disability in Ireland and the implications for public policy, was commissioned by the Department of Social Protection in 2019.

A Capacity Review of Disability Services was undertaken by the Department of Health several years ago.

It sets out the evidence required to guide funding decisions about the services required for people with disabilities.

Despite calls for the publication of both reports, neither department has done so to date.

The Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters says existing data shows that funding is desperately needed for the sector.

Despite an increase in Budget 2021, the Chairperson of the Committee Michael Moynihan TD said extra funding will be required because of “huge backlogs and challenges in the sector”.

‘Thought provoking and challenging’

The Oireachtas committee, which was established in autumn, last year worked throughout the pandemic online.

It heard from people with disabilities, those caring for them and the organisations that represent them.

Deputy Moynihan described some the evidence as “thought provoking and challenging”.

Numerous committee members pointed out at an online seminar today, that people with disabilities experience disproportionately high levels of poverty and low levels of employment in this country.

Indeed, Ireland is one of the worst performing countries in the EU in these areas.

In 2018, the Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) having signed the framework document 11 years previously.

It did not ratify the optional protocol at the time – this allows people with disabilities to complain to the UN (United Nations) if their rights are violated.

Ireland is one of only three EU member states not to have either signed or ratified the optional protocol, along with Poland and the Netherlands.

Three weeks ago, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission made its concerns clear.

Commissioner Sinead Gibney told the committee: “The importance of visible progress to people with disabilities and their organisations, who campaigned and worked to see this Convention ratified, cannot be overstated.”

The Oireachtas committee has called for relevant Government departments to ensure implementation of the United Nations Convention for People with Disabilities.

The cross-party committee has called for equality and fairness, but no one is under any illusion – it requires funding.

Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins expressed the importance of a financial commitment.

“Money needs to be reserved,” she said.

However, she added it was not about “a budget” for the Department of Disability, but about the “entire approach” by Government.

The Disability Matters Committee feels the societal attitude towards disability needs to change.

Much of the responsibility is left to voluntary agencies. Many areas of inadequacy have been highlighted by the committee regarding the provision of services and supports for people with disabilities. Universal housing, home care hours, school transport, school places, early intervention for children, a move away from congregated settings, access to transport, access to shops, supports in the community, training, employment, equality, dignity, respect – the list is endless.

Sinn Féin TD Pauline Tully, who has a background in education, said people should be educated in a school of their choice without parents having to fight tooth and nail for support.

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin said children with disabilities had regressed during the pandemic.

While she welcomed the summer provision programme – which enables children with disabilities to attend school in July – she said the take-up by schools was “not great”.

She called for a more “balanced” approach with all stakeholders involved.

Senator Erin McGreehan of Fianna Fáil said disability was not a box-ticking exercise.

She described the pre-budget submission as something which was being placed at the “centre of the decision makers’ consciousness”.

The Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan noted that the statutory right for home care is a huge challenge.

She said while the Committee for Disability Matters is pursuing these issues with those affected, it would have to be policed every year.

This appears to allude to a proposal by the IHREC, that an annual statement be made to the Dáil by the Minister for Equality or the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability on Ireland’s UNCRPD progress.

The Independent TD Sean Canney stressed the importance of the “lived experience” of people with disabilities.

He cited the example of a man who lost his disability allowance because his wife was in full-time employment.

The deputy also told the story of a family that has to continuously prove their child is blind to get assistance.

He also pointed out “a political element” to it.

“Eight percent of population have disabilities and we don’t have that reflected in Oireachtas and local authorities,” he said.

He suggested funding be made available to help more people with disabilities become representatives in local and national government.

Originally Published by RTE

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