03/10/07 - Opening remarks by John Dolan CEO DFI

October 3 2007


Launch of 'Delivering the Commitment' the DFI Estimates and Budget Submission 2008 Mansion House 3rd October '07

In DFI the National Disability Strategy honeymoon is over. We no longer get organisations routinely saying 'well done' and stating that the strategy is a great improvement. They have done that. That's fair enough and remember it took a full decade to get it in place. 'Towards 2016' gives another decade to deliver on it and the Programme for Government states that half the strategy will be implemented by 2010.

But what is right up front for our membership is an ever growing concern that their contribution is being taken for granted. They site ongoing underfunding from the State for service provision allied to what DFI, The Not for Profit Business Association and the Federation of Voluntary Bodies set out in a letter to the CEO of the HSE earlier this year as a "deep concern at the lack of effective and sustained engagement by the HSE with our sector" the letter went on to state that "there is a growing dismay within our sector at the breakdown of information sharing, communication and the various modalities of partnership"

I am referring here to the corporate entity of the HSE. My colleagues and I are very conscious of the commitment which HSE staff, who we relate with, bring to their work.

Voluntary disability organisations have a pivotal role to play in supporting the delivery of mainstream services to people with disabilities. They can only succeed in that role if supported by the State and in particular the HSE.

At the highest level in Government we are regarded as working in partnership with the State to deliver the National Disability Strategy, yet the continued daily experience for many organisations is of a growing gap and deteriorating relationships with the HSE. Allied to that our organisations have core underfunding issues which were set to be addressed going back a decade with the establishment of the Working Group on Funding Physical and Sensory Disability Organisations in 2000 by the Department of Health and Children and there have been other commitments before and since.

Let me give some examples from across our membership of the reliance on fundraising as a part of total annual income.

2006Total Annual IncomeFundraised
Alzheimer Society of Ireland€ 13,657,368€ 3,806,331
Arthritis Ireland€ 919,851€ 603,000
Aware€ 1,649,028€ 1,042,126
The Cystic Fibrosis Association€ 1,650,750€ 1,502,873
Down Syndrome Ireland€ 1,976,654€ 1,905,866
Heart Children Ireland€ 192,181€ 192,181
Irish Deaf Society€ 503,922€ 397, 106
Irish Motor Neurone Dis.Assoc.€ 1,311,000€ 1,010,000
Multiple Sclerosis Soc of Irl€ 7,600,000€ 4.400.000
Muscular Dystrophy Ireland€ 1,600,000€ 250,000
The Jack and Jill Foundation€ 1,900,000€ 1,400,000
Total Annual Income= €32,960,754  
Total Fundraised Income = €16,112,377

The HSE itself only delivers services on behalf of the State on a fully funded basis. Yet it is ok that their "partners" in service delivery continue to deliver services, which are seriously under funded - and do so at a time of unprecedented growth in our economy, an economy which is set to continue to grow.

It now appears that due to the HSE cutbacks we have lost what was a modest amount of €5m allocated this year to address funding deficits for health related services provided by voluntary disability organisations. Not alone do we have one hand tied behind our backs due to underfunding but the little that was available this year has been withdrawn. The HSE has not succeeded in managing its budget so people with disabilities, that we are trying to deliver to, pay the price.

Furthermore there is an expectation that we are all working together to achieve the delivery of the National Disability Strategy so that people with disabilities can lead full and equal lives in the mainstream of Irish life. Working together surely means delivering core funding where and when it is needed so that services and supports currently being delivered can be maintained.

This we say very clearly today; it is not on that necessary services provided to people with disabilities that are delivered by the State will be fully funded while the same or similar services delivered by DFI member organisations will be part funded or in some cases not funded. The cost of providing services is ever increasing due to inflation, pay increments, enhanced standards of delivery etc. This situation is simply not sustainable.

DFI and its organisations worked hard on a consistent basis over the years to get to a point where this country has a very credible and thoughtful Disability Strategy. We stayed with the process during its difficult times when the easy and publicly attractive option would have been to pull out. We trusted that work to progress underfunding and core deficits was being dealt with. These funding deficits must be resolved in 2008 - or we should all take a very clear signal that the specifics of the National Disability Strategy and the vision of Towards 2016 are being ignored.

We are being softened up for a tight budget yet there are some other facts to be considered. Firstly the economy, which is very strong, is still set to grow over the years ahead and secondly this Government, less than four months ago, said that it will set out for each year the objectives and outcomes to be reached in the National Disability Strategy. These commitments are in the Programme for Government where it stated that half the strategy would be delivered over the next three years and remember it was written after the election and it is the programme of action for this Government.

The Estimates and Budget Statement to be delivered in the Dáil on the 5th December is where we should see, at a minimum, what I describe as the National Disability Action Plan for 2008 setting out the resources being applied and the outcomes to be achieved.

If that Action Plan does not materialise Government will have reneged on a headline commitment from the Programme for Government namely "The Government, will for each year of the Programme for Government, set out the objectives and outcomes to be reached in the National Disability Strategy having regard to the vision and long term goals for people with disabilities as set out in Towards 2016"

Effective delivery requires that the voluntary sector partners are operating on an equal funding base to their statutory counterparts and that they are supported to deploy their full potential and capacity. Core underfunding must be resolved in this forthcoming Estimates and Budget

DFI will be seeking to identify €25m towards Core Deficits and Capacity Building for its organisations. We will also be seeking the introduction of a Cost of Disability Payment.

Finally, Governments, on a routine and annual basis must make decisions, they must take into account the circumstances that they find themselves in and equally the circumstances that they put themselves in. We expect that they will continue to state that the economy is slowing down. That is a fact yet they are also, and equally, on the eve of three years by which time they have committed to having 50% of the National Disability Strategy delivered. That too is a fact but one actually created by Government.

Yes there are competing demands on Government. The decision they need to make at this time is to prioritise disability in relation to exchequer investment next year and for the years ahead otherwise the National Disability Strategy can be viewed as a slight of hand.