Address by Padraig Hannafin at DFI's Budget 2024 event hosted by Senator Tom Clonan in the Oireachtas AV Room

September 28 2023, 11:30am


The following is an address by Padraig Hannafin at DFI's Budget24 event hosted by Senator Tom Clonan in the Oireachtas AV Room on Thursday 28 September 2023.

Padraig is Public Affairs and Research Administrator with Rehab and a DFI Board Member. He was speaking to the impact on disability services as a result of the crisis in Section 39-funded organisations: 

Section 39 organisations delivering essential disability services are now in crisis regarding the retention of existing staff and recruitment of new staff members, coupled with the growing crisis in relation to inflation.

I personally owe a huge debt of gratitude to section 39 organisations. I'm a Kerry man living in Cork. I moved here in 2001 after completing my leaving cert, moving in order to enter third level education. Initially my only option for accommodation was to live in an institution with about 20 other people it was a dark time and it was very difficult for me and also for my family.

Thankfully in 2002 a section 39 organisation, Cork Centre for Independent Living (Cork CIL), came to the fore as I sought personal assistant support to move into independent living. This was a move that would change my life completely and give me a sense of a normal life in the community. Without this I would not have managed to complete my third level education and I doubt I would be in employment right now. That change in my life gave me a sense of independence and a respect for my role in society and the ability to control aspects of my daily life.

This is the difference a Section 39 organization can make. I have witnessed this both as a service user but also now as a DFI board member and former chairperson of Cork Centre For Independent Living.

I've witnessed now the difference that the lack of pay parity is having on section 39 organisations. A survey of DFI member organizations into Staffing within the Voluntary Disability Sector found that  71% of these organisations have lost experienced staff to the public sector and 57% have lost experienced staff to the private sector. Staff members have left their organizations to move to section 38 organizations and it's hard to blame them when you consider that you're getting paid more to do the same job.

This is being felt on the so called front line. Services are reduced, cover cannot be arranged. The relative experiences of people with disabilities of their services is now becoming a lottery depending on which service you are in.

In my day to day job with the Rehab Group the issue of pay parity for Section 39 organisations is severely impacting delivery of existing services. It can prove difficult for service users to build relationships with incoming staff if they don't know whether or not they will be there tomorrow. Depending on the disability, many people rely heavily on routine and have difficulty adapting to new faces that can disappear before they have the chance to get to know them. Service users relying on services from Section 39 organisations have the right to the same level of service as those in Section 38 and HSE-provided services.

The truth is that the requirements of each of these organisations are the same. Staff members are required to have the same qualifications and training. The needs of the service users are by in large the same. But the pay is not equal. Increasingly staff in Section 39 organisations are incentivised to apply for vacancies in Section 38 organisations or the HSE where the salary is higher and other terms and conditions (e.g., pensions, hours of work etc.) are better.

During my time as a service user of Cork Centre for Independent Living I have had personal assistants who have worked with me for as long as 15 to 20 years. I have fostered strong relationships with people who have seen me at my best and at my most vulnerable. These were all section 39 workers who deserve the same recognition as their equivalent in a section 38 or HSE organisation. It is time for pay parity now.

Padraig Hannafin