Disability Federation of Ireland 2013 Annual Review
Issued on May 1 2014
In the last year our company members received regular updates from the Board on the progress of the implementation of the Strategic and Operational Plans and they are included in our Annual Review for your consideration today. I will therefore concentrate on a few overarching areas.
2013 was a challenging year. It began with the abolishment of the Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport grant. These were two long-standing programmes that provided practical, person centred supports to people with disabilities where the “money followed the person”. The cut to these two schemes added to the growing concerns of the Disability Federation of Ireland that the fabric of community based services was being eroded. In response, DFI published a joint piece of research with the Not for Profit Business Association (NfPBA) "Living in the Community: Services and Supports for People with Disabilities".
The end of 2013 was as difficult as the beginning of the year, with public and political concerns being raised in relation to governance issues in two long-established voluntary disability organisations. It marked a particularly difficult time for all voluntary organisations and for people with disabilities and their families. There is much work to be done to rebuild and reconfirm the reputation of voluntary disability organisations, and DFI continues to work on this with you as members
DFI has a long track record of working on issues of governance and quality with its members. November saw the joint work with the University of Limerick (UL) come to a fitting conclusion with the conference, “Developing Successful Strategic Operations and Alliances in the Voluntary Disability Sector”. The Symposium highlighted the work that members are doing to develop their governance and quality systems and also presented research evaluating DFI's support to members on these issues.
At the end of the year, DFI published a critique of the disability commitments in the Programme for Government, “Promises, Commitments, and Delivery: Mid-Term Review of the Programme for Government” and it confirmed what is obvious to people with disabilities and their families; namely that the services and supports that they rely on are not being protected and strengthened. Sadly they are being eroded on an ongoing basis.
It is also important to state that our work spans beyond Ireland and we are actively trying to further the inclusion of people with disabilities through our European networks. During the Irish Presidency of the European Union (EU) in the first half of 2013, DFI co-hosted the European Disability Forum conference and Board meeting in Dublin. We are very clear that the future of people with disabilities in Ireland is bound up with what happens at EU level. We know full well the effects of the austerity approach currently being implemented throughout the EU and here in Ireland.
As Chairperson with the board of directors I recognise that DFI has had to deal with the serious issue of sustainability in funding. As part of the solution, it was agreed to cut pay and pensions by 9%, and to curtail increment payments. This came on top of pay cuts in excess of 6% in 2010. At the same time, I have seen that the work carried out by the staff in DFI has continued with enthusiasm and renewed commitment. I would like to acknowledge this commitment and serious contribution by staff.
A mark of DFI that I have seen over the years is its capacity to identify key causal issues and to simply get on and do something about them hand-in hand with the organisations. DFI has done this in relation to governance and quality and also in relation to community services. In a similar vein, DFI did not mince its words when it came to responding to the abolishment of the mobility schemes or in the previous year in response to the cut to the Personal Assistant (PA) programme. DFI named the impact on the lives of people and their families, and highlighted the gap between the reality of decisions made by our Government and their rhetoric of community living and inclusion.
Finally, as this is the last opportunity I will have to address you I would like to say what a privilege it has been to serve you as Chairperson of DFI. I would like to thank you the members for your support over the years. A special thanks to my colleagues on the Board of Directors for their hard work and commitment. My job as chair was made all the easier because the directors had a special dynamic that got to the heart of an issue very quickly and dealt with difference positively and creatively. A special word of thanks to John Dolan for the dedication to the disability movement especially his work for the more marginalised; for the way he made time to brief me and include me in some difficult circumstances. Nothing was too much trouble. I commend John and staff for remaining positive and focused. They deserve praise for their achievements during a very difficult year.