Employment Special Newsletter May 2015
Issued on May 11 2015
An Ireland that is fully inclusive of people with disabilities will be an Ireland where disabled people take their place alongside their peers, not only in education, and in the social arena, but also in the workforce, where they can contribute economically to the country and benefit from the services designed for citizens across their life span.
The right to work is established in the UNCRPD and this right needs to be established across all mainstream employment supports in Ireland. Our social welfare system has seen a huge transformation over the last few years, transforming form a welfare system to an activation and employment support system with controls and sanctions in place for noncompliance.
This new approach has actively barred disabled citizens out of the very services required to support them into work.
While we welcome the vision of the draft Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities  (CES), we still have significant concerns about the strategy’s capacity to work alongside mainstream supports to ensure sustainable employment for people with disabilities. There are many disabled people who would benefit from accessing mainstream supports just the same as there are those who require specialist or tailored supports.
The strategy needs a funding support package to help bridge various barriers such as accessibility, transport, equality etc. It will otherwise stop their progress. It is understood that this will not be provided.
There is little attention paid to the transitions and hurdles placed in the way by systems which aim to serve jobseekers. Transitions such as from rehabilitation post injury to return to work have been documented as major pitfalls, and more needs to be done to address this issue.
Of course the major obstacle to employment for people with disabilities in Ireland is the cost of disability. The prospective loss of secondary benefits, especially the medical card, as well as unfavourable tax credits in many cases, are too great a risk for people with disabilities to take. We must ensure that work provides the long-term security a person with a disability requires to take up or return to education, training and employment.
For activation to be successful, people with disabilities need flexible supports, adaptations, coaching, and transition supports, as well as a guaranteed income. There can be no recovery without us, and employment is one of the biggest challenges to this.
Right now there is an election taking place in the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency. The Census tells us there are over 19,000 people with disabilities in these counties. We know 16% of people with disabilities in Carlow did not go to post primary school (18% in Kilkenny) and this compares to 5% of people without a disability in Carlow and 3% in Kilkenny. Only 27% of people of working age with a disability in Carlow are at work, and 33% in Kilkenny.
These two examples show how unfair and unequal life is for people with disabilities. These are ‘big ticket’ areas for society in general but seemingly not when it comes to the 13% of people with a disability. All too soon we will have the general election, and it is time for us to make our presence felt.
Finally, I would like to thank the contributors in this special edition. DFI and our fellow disability organisations are engaged in a wide range of innovative responses to the employment issue, and this newsletter represents only a small sample of what is being done and the services that are available.
- John Dolan, Chief Executive