Ahead of Budget 2024, DFI CEO John Dolan writes to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the crisis in disability services and planned strike action

October 3 2023, 04:21pm

John Dolan at EPPD 2023

Ahead of Budget 2024, John Dolan, Chief Executive Officer of the Disability Federation of Ireland, has today written to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in relation to the crisis in Section 39-funded disability services and the planned strike action from 17 October. 

The letter follows:

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD

Government Buildings

Merrion Street

Dublin 2

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Dear Taoiseach,

In recent weeks you have stated publicly that it is necessary to exceed the limits proposed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council in order to provide improvements to necessary services for disabled people. Minister Simon Coveney has publicly made the same point.

Furthermore, in the Dáil in response to Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, on 26 September last, you stated “The threatened strike by section 39 and section 56 organisations is a matter of real concern, especially to the people who need those services daily, to their families and to their carers. The Government is very aware of the potential inconvenience that could be caused should the strike go ahead. I hope it will not. Much of the work done by these bodies is in the disability sector. The work they do is valuable, and I assure the Deputy the Government values it.”

With the Disability Capacity Review the State has set out the need for significant disability service improvements over the next decade, amounting to an additional €1,000m per annum by 2032. This spending is essential to address identified unmet need, as well as addressing demographic change.

Similarly, we have seen the recent Green Paper on Disability Reform to address the funding required to meet the current and ongoing extra costs in everyday living for disabled people.

Costs that the State has acknowledged for some time, which are in the region of €8,700 to €12,000 per annum. These are critical building blocks in progressing implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN CRPD.

Your government’s ‘Programme for Government - Our Shared Future’ sets a high ambition for disability and this was necessary. It stated, “Ever since Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we have signalled to those with a disability that we are now serious about making a difference – a difference that will make things better.”

Last week, strike action was served to address the retention and recruitment crisis across state-funded services using the Section 39 mechanism. At the same time, the State has acknowledged the major deficiencies across service provision and peoples’ incomes. You have clearly signalled publicly, and in the Dáil that the Budget needs to bring benefits and service improvements to disabled people.

Announced strike action which is to commence one week after the Budget would tick a very different box from “…we are now serious about making a difference – a difference that will make things better.”

Strike action will be disastrous for the thousands of disabled people, and equally for their families, living across the country. At a wider level, and with just over a year remaining of your term in Government, it will destroy the hope and confidence of the disability community to the “make things better” commitment.

What needs to happen now:

• The strike must be averted, and the underlying issues resolved,

• Money must be put into disabled peoples’ pockets to address the cost of disability poverty burden,

• There must be a significant uplift across a range of services in keeping with the Capacity Review, and,

• Measures to make community participation and employment available for disabled people must be introduced.

With the strike resolved alongside a significant package of measures to bolster independent living in the community, there is hope for a brighter future ahead for disabled people.

Yours sincerely,

John Dolan

Chief Executive Officer

Disability Federation of Ireland