Newsletter August 2011
Issued on August 12 2011
A recent investigation by the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, of a complaint about a decision not to award the Mobility Allowance to an individual on the grounds that the person was over 66 years of age was, for me, a clear example of how a public body, over a period of ten years, since the enactment of the Equal Status Act 2000, did not alter its procedures to be in compliance with an Act of the Oireachtas.
A number of things strike me. Firstly, this has come to light following the investigation of a complaint, but how often do people simply not complain, or do not persevere when making their case? As voluntary disability organisations, we need to be systematically supportive of people who are trying to get access to services, and this is a role that many organisations have played over the years.
Secondly, successful implementation of the National Disability Strategy (NDS) requires a positive and proactive approach by public bodies in complying with legislation and policies that support the equal participation of people in society.
Thirdly, right now, Government has no way of measuring the impact of the recession on the very group that it has prioritised in terms of social justice, namely, people with disabilities.
Because clear lines of accountability and effective monitoring have never been established, the adverse effects are largely hidden from the public eye. This case is one example of what happens when accountability and monitoring are not centre stage.
The human side of the case highlighted here involved a man bringing a complaint to the Ombudsman in September 2008, on behalf of his sister. His sister died in October 2010 before the completion of the Ombudsman’s investigation.
The Government is committed to public service reform, which has to be a massive challenge, given that a case such as this could surface over a decade after the commencement of the Equal Status Act 2000, the commencement of the NDS in 2004, and where the Ombudsman reported that the Equality Authority and other bodies had brought the issue of non-compliance with the Equal Status Act 2000 to the attention of the Department of Health and Children.
DFI continues to press Government to honour its commitment to developing a Government-wide plan in place to ensure that the NDS is implemented. Public bodies, and their staff, will need to be more accountable for their actions, in terms of implementation of policy.
It seems that accountability for discussion and actions needs to be a regular and primary consideration for public bodies in terms of effective implementation of policy.
John Dolan CEO