"A Lot Planned, All To Do"

October 29 2009


Address by John Dolan, Chief Executive, Disability Federation of Ireland at the Launch of DFI: Programme for Government (2007 - 2012) "

Venue: The Dun Library, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 6 Kildare Street, Dublin 2
28th March 2007 at 1.00 p.m.

Some say the disability issue is dealt with.

"Haven't you got the Disability Act, the Disability Strategy and isn't there a lot more funding going in".

It is not dealt with. Disabled people don't have access to necessary therapy services, personal assistance, housing and accommodation services, health services, education and employment services. Similarly they have huge difficulties getting close to services because of issues around access to public spaces, buildings, transport, information and advocacy.

What is dealt with is the planning. We have a National Disability Strategy which puts the person first and expects that they can contribute fully to life and living in Ireland. The National Disability Strategy as set out in "Towards 2016" is an excellent commitment, but as of yet is of no value to people living right around the country from Kerry to Louth and Wexford to Donegal. It must be implemented day in day out throughout the lifetime of the next Government.

That Strategy is an acceptance that this State has not done the right thing by its disabled citizens. In effect it acts as an apology for the wrongful exclusion of disabled people from all aspects of Irish life and it sets out an intention to redress the situation.

All Parties and candidates must remember that for us in the disability movement there is a long and sad history of loss and exclusion for countless thousands of people. The promise of the National Disability Strategy is that these people, our fellow citizens, members of our families and communities will have a life. A life of opportunity.

Given the point that we have now reached the next Government will do one of two things. It will emancipate disabled people, they will be free to take up any and every opportunity that any person in a Republic should enjoy or it will break our hearts with obfuscaton and endless reasons why things can't happen. Our catalogue of explanations from public administrators as to why things can't happen is comprehensive enough. We are not interested in explanations or excuses. We have been brought to the top of the hill and we have seen the promise of equality and inclusion through the National Disability Strategy.

The National Disability Strategy has one single purpose, namely to vindicate the rights of citizens who have disabilities: their right to free movement, to free expression, to be a part of the Republican vision of opportunity for all. This is above and beyond any sense of auction politics. If our next Government does not implement the National Disability Strategy they will be in the dock because they will have knowingly and willingly acted to deny the opportunity for a full life to people with disabilities. An opportunity enshrined in the National Disability Strategy.

This is General Election time. It is our opportunity to focus the attention of those who will govern us. May sectors and interests will want to get the attention of the Parties and to put them under pressure to deliver for them.

The State has spent the best part of a decade preparing for the National Disability Strategy. The Strategy is Government policy and is endorsed by the social partners. The planning is done, the costings are done. The resources and effort required are an essential and expected investment cost. They are not to be viewed as part of any auction or bargaining process. It is now time to concentrate on the when, what, where and how of delivery.

As a sector we are nervous that the Disability Strategy will not be fully delivered and on time. Our experience teaches us to be nervous. Progress being made up to the last General Election was wiped out overnight and not until 2005 did any new funding go into disability health services. Commitments going back to the 90s to resolve under funding for service provision by voluntary disability organisations are still not dealt with. People are still receiving personal social services such as personal assistance through FÁS Schemes. Organisations are still fundraising to bolster the delivery of services that the HSE has a statutory remit to provide. There is an enthusiasm to have greater cohesion and effectiveness across the organisations but of necessity core funding issues must be dealt with.

Over ten years after the "A Strategy for Equality" (1996) report there has been no commencement of the Cost of Disability Payment. No one questions or doubts that there are higher everyday costs for people who are disabled. We accept that there are extra costs in a family where there are children, hence Child Benefit. €250m would address these issues by putting current service provision on a stable foundation and commencing the Cost of Disability payment for all disabled people on means tested income supports. More than that it would restore confidence that our next Government will be a Disability Make it Happen Government.

We want the under funding for organisations and the cost of disability proposals dealt with in the forthcoming Estimates & Budget 2008, and in terms of the National Disability Strategy we want each Party to set out their five year programme for implementation with outcome benchmarks annually. We are serious about getting the Strategy implemented over the life of "Towards 2016". We expect those who form the next Government to put in a very strong first half performance over the next five years.

In conclusion we seek to have the three proposals headlined in
DFI: Programme for Government (2007 - 2012) "A Lot Planned, All To Do"
embedded in each Party's election Manifesto as follows:

That in Government we:

  1. will commence progressive implementation of the Cost of Disability payment.
  2. will adequately resource current service delivery by voluntary disability organisations.
  3. will identify for each year of the programme for government the objectives and outcomes for the National Disability Strategy, having regard to the vision and long term goals for people with disabilities as set out in "Towards 2016".

and we need these proposals actioned straight away. We intend to hold a Press briefing to review progress having examined the Party Manifestos.

As prospective candidates for Government we want each Party to pledge to these proposals and in Government to deliver the National Disability Strategy and remember delivery will be seen not in reports but in the radically changed day to day lives of people with disabilities.

Thank you.

Disability Federation of Ireland
Fumbally Court, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8
Tel: 01 4547978 Fax: 01 4547981
Email: info@disability-federation.ie
Web: www.disability-federation.ie.