Call for Improved Safeguarding of Persons with Disabilities

Europe, Misc., September 12 2021

More than a third do not think people with disabilities have equal rights 40% say not enough support for decision making of people with disabilities. 75% favour stronger laws to better safeguard people with disabilities. The rights of people with disabilities are not adequately respected and upheld in Ireland, according to a new RED C Survey commissioned by Safeguarding Ireland.

The survey highlights the need for stronger supports for independent decision-making and a greater focus on achieving equality, through greater awareness and strengthened adult safeguarding laws.

The survey of a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide found that:

  • More than a third did not believe that people with disabilities have equal rights in Ireland
  • Just 25% believe that people with an intellectual disability are adequately supported to make their own decisions, and just 33% believe that people with a physical disability are adequately supported to do so
  • 76% said stronger safeguarding laws are needed to ensure the rights of people with disabilities.

Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Richard-Clarke said the survey highlighted, once again, the need for progress on adult safeguarding legislation in order to protect every citizen at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect.

“Safeguarding means living safely, free from abuse or neglect. It means our choices, particularly if we have reduced capacity, are clearly heard and respected. The key principle to better safeguard all people is to respect their human rights and support decision making. This is especially important for people who live with a disability.

“People living with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability can have very different needs. Individuals, organisations and services must respect, listen to and reach out to each person regardless of any challenges faced. Many of these challenges can be significantly overcome with simple supports.”

The Confidential Recipient to the HSE for People with Disabilities and Older People, Leigh Gath, said people with disabilities do not have equal rights in Ireland, and while things are improving – lots remain to be done.

“Each person with a disability is different and has different needs. Each person should be supported to make their own choices – to take risks, and also to make life’s mistakes as we all do. Many people with a disability need supports help them to make decisions and to be independent – and where challenges are identified these should be risen to.

“Of course there is also a need too to keep people safe, and protect them. However, the balance needs to shift more towards independence, decision making, and choice. This means both a change in attitudes and increase in supports to accommodate to the level of the individual.”

Ms Rickard-Clarke said of particular importance will be the implementation of the Assisted Decision making Act which is due to come into effect in June 2022. The Act will put into law much improved clarity and protocols for circumstances where capacity is an issue and people are in receipt of healthcare, or financial and public services.

“We are signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in Ireland. This means that everybody has a right to make their own choices, and every effort must be made to support people whose capacity to make decisions is a challenge,” she said.

The research is informing a new public awareness campaign on safeguarding and disability being led by Safeguarding Ireland.

The campaign is being supported by the Disability Federation of Ireland, HSE, Inclusion Ireland, National Disability Services Association and National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers.

More information on the Safeguarding Ireland website at

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Safeguarding Ireland / Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

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