2004 Annual Review
Issued on June 1 2005
The Annual Review of the Disability Federation of Ireland provides an opportunity to highlight the activities of the organisation throughout the year. 2004 was significant for DFI across a wide range of areas and activities.
A seven year Strategic Plan, designed to bring DFI to the end of the decade, was adopted by the National Council in December 2003. Work then commenced to develop a more detailed and targeted Operational Plan. I want to focus on one of the three Strategic Objectives in the plan, that of providing support and services to our member organisations.
Conscious of the growing need within organisations for practical assistance in areas such as governance, strategic planning and organisational development, we are pleased that 2004 proved to be the first full year in the operation of our Training and Support Service, funded through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. While this was a significant development, there is clearly a lot more to do.
DFI was instrumental in the establishment of BoardMatch, which was operational by the end of the year. This development has the potential to make significant human resource skills, of those with relevant expertise, available to the Boards and key decision makers in organisations. As a sector we have major needs in this area, and while there continues to be a vacuum in relation to legislation and regulation of the voluntary sector, along with the continued shortfall in resourcing to promote best organisational practice and systems, DFI, I am proud to say, has provided leadership and taken practical steps to address this area.
On the policy side there was much activity in areas such as Health Service Reform, the Disability Bill, and Social Partnership.
There were frustrations around the Health Service Reform Programme, most notably the reluctance of the Interim Health Service Executive to acknowledge the vital role which our sector plays in shaping and delivering health services.
The Disability Bill, expected early in the year, was eventually published in September along with departmental sectoral plans and a commitment to multi-annual funding for services. While the provision of a multi-annual funding mechanism is highly significant, and to be welcomed, there has been growing disappointment with the provisions of the Bill around specialist support services and ensuring the mainstreaming of disability across a range of Government departments and public bodies.
Summer brought the mid-term review of Sustaining Progress, where, along with our colleagues on the Community and Voluntary Pillar, we focused on the need to implement the commitments made in the Agreement, highlighting the importance of national Budgets in doing so. Budget 2005 improved the dismal trend of the previous two Budgets, and brought a number of gains in relation to issues which we had been promoting, namely, an increased rate of disability allowance, commitments to adults with significant disabilities (young chronic sick), personal assistance, and accommodation for people experiencing mental illness in the community.
We ran a very focused Campaign, Housing - The Vital Element, in the run up to the Local Authority Elections, and later in the year, through our Social Partnership engagement, we influenced the National Economic and Social Council Report No.112, Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy, in which it was acknowledged that there is a necessity for a National Housing Strategy for people with disabilities, and which, crucially, committed to the development of this Strategy. This is just one example of DFI's ability to strategically influence public policy and practice in favour of people with disabilities in Ireland, irrespective of the nature or type of disability.
We continue to regard the NDA as occupying a unique position to influence the development of policy and practice in favour of people with disabilities in Ireland. The organisation is well placed within the orbit of the public service and the voluntary disability sector. DFI has expressed concerns to the NDA during the year in relation to its approach to the voluntary disability sector. We are of the view that the important role that the voluntary sector plays in the area of disability is not sufficiently valued by the NDA at the present time.
DFI is in a unique position as an organisation which gives support and leadership to a broad and varied sector. We continue to operate in ways which value the independence and autonomy of each organisation within a shared vision. That vision is set out in the Strategic Plan 2004 - 2010, as agreed by our National Council, which states that
"DFI works to ensure that Irish society is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions so that they can exercise fully their civil, social and human rights."
As an organisation we continue to be careful to promote issues and strive to develop policy in ways that assist the broad sector. This is obvious in areas such as support and development needs for organisations, Health Service Reform, Disability Bill and other legislative areas, Strategic Review of Disability Services, income support and cost of disability and through the Social Partnership Process.
The last day of 2004 was the last day of operation of the Health Boards. It is right to acknowledge with thanks the work and commitment of countless officials across all Boards and the ERHA who have supported us in meeting the health and personal social service needs of people with disabilities and their families. We wish them all well in the new structures and hopefully we will be working together again.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the National Council for its support.
I wish to thank my fellow Board Members for their role in guiding the work of the Federation throughout the year. All of us on the Board act in a voluntary capacity, bringing sector-wide experience and perspective to the role. I would like to mention in particular my fellow officers, Ann-Marie Flanagan, Vice-Chairperson until May 2004, Marie Lynch, current Vice-Chairperson, and Geraldine Clare, Honorary Treasurer, for their particular support and work.
During the year a number of Board members retired, namely, Anne Hughes (Dyslexia Association), Michael Dineen (MS Ireland), and Paul Daly (Down Syndrome Ireland). I wish to acknowledge and thank them for their service. I welcome Nick Killian (IASBAH), Mike Glynn (Brainwave), and Eithne Frost (Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association) to the Board.
Many other people throughout the membership of DFI provide voluntary service to its mission and work on a regular basis - they too are to be acknowledged and thanked. I specifically want to note the work which our representatives across the Co-Ordinating Committees have done on behalf of the wider membership.
Finally, I would like to thank our Chief Executive, John Dolan, and staff members, for their continued dedication to ensuring that the objectives of the Disability Federation of Ireland are achieved.