Disability Federation of Ireland Annual Review 2011
Issued on July 1 2012
During 2011 the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) worked in a highly charged environment, where three sets of elections, an enduring recession and a stringent fiscal compact generated significant tensions. At the same time there were also some opportunities to promote a society that actively includes people with disabilities.
Against this context the Board of DFI oversaw the delivery of a new Strategic Plan 2011-2016, and the development of an Operational Plan to guide work in four priority areas:
- To influence the development, implementation and monitoring of policies affecting people with disabilities.
- To improve the effectiveness and sustainability of DFI member organisations.
- To strengthen the voice, impact and relevance of the disability movement in Ireland.
- To enhance the organisational effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of DFI.
The new vision and mission outlined in the Strategic Plan, and the introduction of guiding principles for DFI”s work in relation to people with disabilities and disabling conditions, our member organisations, and our own development, will greatly assist DFI as it continues to show leadership on disability issues.
DFI recognises that organisational governance is critical for effective operation in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. Three meetings of the National Council of DFI were held during 2011, as well as the AGM in May. In addition, four quarterly reports, produced during the year and presented to the National Council, provided additional detailed information. The Board embraced implementation of PQASSO, a quality assurance system, to strengthen performance, and reviewed existing governance arrangements. Three Board Sub-Committees also operated to expedite work: on compliance, office premises and finance and audit. A Board Governance Manual is being implemented, a tender for a financial audit was held and the audit finalised. The Board continued to track progress on the individual aspects of the PQASSO project.
DFI recognises that organisational governance is critical for effective operation in a rapidly changing and challenging environment.
In addition to this work, the Board continued its commitment to ensuring that DFI used the volatile policy environment of 2011 to advance the case for protecting the income and service supports that enable people with disabilities to participate in their communities, and to press for an implementation framework that would underpin their legitimate rights.
The Dáil election, the Seanad campaign, the Comprehensive Review of Spending, and the Budget process were all opportunities that we pursued. In addition, there was other work done to increase the awareness of decision makers, whether politicians, civil servants, others in the community and voluntary sector or the general public, about disability issues.
At the end of 2011 Ireland was facing up to more years of austerity, which threaten further retrenchment in essential supports for people. At the same time, I believe Ireland was better positioned to appreciate and act on measures that would enable people with disabilities to play a bigger part in society. DFI will need to continue its two-pronged tactics of fighting cutbacks while building the case for stronger disability policy implementation. The steps taken by DFI during 2011 better enable us to work with Government and others to actively bring about the reform and change that is necessary to underpin full and equal inclusion of people with disabilities. Central to this will be the delivery of commitments contained in the Program for Government.
As 2011 came to a close DFI, once again, demonstrated its value in giving public leadership by responding effectively and quickly to Budget announcements that income supports were to be cut, and played a major part in getting the decision paused.
Despite an extremely difficult economic environment, 2012 promises to be a year when the Government focuses disability policy on achieving better outcomes for people. There is a real prospect of more integrated policy and planning to deliver person centred services and supports. DFI looks forward to the challenges and opportunities that brings.
It is important that I conclude by thanking my fellow Board members for their work and contribution throughout the year. Apart from Board meetings they also participate in the Board Sub-Committees. This work is a significant call on their time. I particularly acknowledge the support of my fellow officers John O”Sullivan, Vice Chairperson and Anne Winslow, Honorary Treasurer along with the former Chairperson Paul Ledwidge.
Paul and Anne are retiring from the Board at this AGM after many years of active service. I wish to thank them again on your behalf and to wish them health and happiness for the future. Furthermore, Des Kenny has decided not to seek re-election. Des has been associated with the governance of DFI since the late 60”s, and during the early 80”s he was our General Secretary. Des regularly demonstrates his wealth of experience, knowledge and wisdom as someone with a disability and with a unique knowledge of the sector and its strategic management challenges. More to the point, Des can also share all of this in language which is always memorable and soft, while still being effective and a cause for useful reflection by those present. We wish him health and happiness, and we will continue to need his advice and insights.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank the management and staff, and the many volunteers who represent DFI countrywide. Their work and commitment are greatly appreciated.