2006 Annual Review
Issued on June 1 2007
The preceding year, 2005, was groundbreaking, with the enactment of the Disability Act 2005. However, the year under review was also momentous for the disability movement. The Social Partnership Agreement was negotiated and agreed, and gave expression to the commitments of Government and the social partners to the National Disability Strategy (NDS) and the implementation of mainstreaming policy. The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), representing the disability interest within Social Partnership, played an unprecedented leadership role in the negotiation process. Members of DFI can be proud of the commitments now made, but equally we must all continue to orientate the efforts and focus of our organisations to face the challenges of implementation in a mainstreaming context.
During this time DFI was also deeply involved in sustained efforts to influence the final shape of the six Departmental Sectoral Plans under the NDS. These Plans were eventually debated in the Dáil and Seanad as part of their enactment process. A commitment, which DFI had been seeking as part of the Disability Bill campaign, was to have the Strategy Statement of each Government Department take account of mainstreaming policy and the disability commitments of each Department. This was significantly progressed when Government stated that the Sectoral Plan commitments would be included in the Strategy Statements and Business Plans of each of the six Sectoral Plan Departments. This commitment ensures that each Sectoral Plan forms an integral part of the relevant Department's strategic vision, business planning processes and work objectives. We also engaged strongly to influence the 'Citizens Information Bill 2006' (formerly 'Comhairle Amendment Bill 2004)' in relation to the advocacy remit of the Citizens Information Board (formerly Comhairle) for people with disabilities.
Despite these developments and achievements, frustrations arose within the sector in regard to its relationship with the Health Service Executive (HSE). The second full year of operation of the HSE, 2006, concluded with the view voiced across our sector that disability has not found expression within the overall health agenda. This would have been our reasonable expectation, given the importance of mainstreaming and the National Disability Strategy to Government. There was a clear sense of frustration and despair across the voluntary disability sector on this issue. We unreservedly wish the Government and the HSE every success in their efforts to reform the health services, but to date the HSE has not commenced a sustained or coherent engagement with our sector.
DFI has also been active in areas that have yet to gain strong commitment from Government. One of these areas is the provision of organisational and capacity building supports to the organisations in our sector. While Government has repeatedly acknowledged the important public interest role of voluntary disability organisations, this has yet to be matched with an adequately resourced and coherent programme to bolster and improve the infrastructure of organisations. Notwithstanding this, DFI pressed ahead, progressing work from earlier years, and in particular we commenced operation of the 'Chairs as Effective Leaders' Project, a pilot project involving fourteen chairpersons from DFI organisations in an exploration of governance issues and supports for organisations. There is a clear and absolute link between having a fit and healthy organisation and its capacity to develop and deliver effective services and supports particularly in this new policy environment.
The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, 'Provision of Disability Services by Non Profit Organisations' (December 2005) makes reference to a range of organisational capacity and development issues. This is reassuring to DFI in its ongoing efforts to ensure greater focus on capacity building in organisations across the sector.
By June we saw Government commit to a comprehensive programme of measures in the ten year Social Partnership Agreement, 'Towards 2016'. These measures, if implemented, will revolutionise the day-to-day lived experience of people with disabilities, their families and carers by 2016. However, by year end we had witnessed lethargy in progressing the resourcing and system change issues which are urgently needed in order to bring these commitments to fruition.
The Estimates and Budget 2007, while significantly improving the income and benefits situation of people with disabilities, did not introduce the Cost of Disability Payment. Furthermore, there was no provision for putting further services into operation, nor were funding shortfalls in current service provision addressed. The Estimates and Budget 2007 have failed to deliver the funding necessary to meet the commitments set out in 'Towards 2016'. This was hugely disappointing.
I mentioned above the strong relationship between the effectiveness of governance and management systems, and the quality and appropriateness of activities undertaken and services provided by organisations. In that regard, corporate governance work progressed by DFI was related to reviewing our governance structures, progression of our ICT Strategy and reviewing and updating our financial analysis and reporting systems, particularly to support the Board. Otherwise the Board gave consideration to its own working procedures.
I wish to thank my Board colleagues for their role in guiding the work of the Federation throughout the year. Each one of us on the Board acts in a voluntary capacity, bringing sector-wide experience and perspective to the role. I would like to mention in particular my fellow officers John Saunders, Chairperson, Marie Lynch, Chairperson / Vice Chairperson and Paul Ledwidge, Vice Chairperson, for their particular support and work. 1
During the year one Board Member, Nick Killian, resigned. I wish to thank him for his service and support. I welcome also new members to the Board during the year. These are Kieran Loughran and Anne Winslow.
Many other people throughout the membership of DFI work on a regular basis to provide voluntary service to the Federation's mission. They too are to be acknowledged and thanked.
There were significant staff changes during the year, and I want to wish those who moved on from DFI all the best, and to welcome new staff. In appointing a dedicated Corporate Services Executive and an ICT Manager DFI is well placed to move into the future with increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Finally I would like to thank our Chief Executive, John Dolan, and staff members, for their continued dedication to ensuring that the objectives of the Disability Federation of Ireland are achieved.