Newsletter May 2010
Issued on May 1 2010
As required by Section 6 of the Disability Act 2005, the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reviewing the operation of the Act in 2010.
Looking back over the last five years, and at how the Disability Act has worked for people with disabilities, we need to consider what has been achieved and if more progress could have been made. The Act contains provisions over a wide range of issues that concern the inclusion of people with disabilities. The Act gave an expectation of major positive change. Key areas are:
- the entitlement to an independent assessment of need for health and personal support services and a service statement in Part 2 of the Act.
- an obligation on public bodies to ensure their public buildings and services are accessible as far as practicable
- substantive requirements about complaints and appeal processes and
- the obligation on six departments of government to formulate and implement comprehensive sectoral plans to ensure that they comply with the provisions in the Act.
Five years on, DFI is deeply concerned that the operation of the Act is not nearly as effective as it could be. Of course there have been improvements in accessing public and social services and infrastructure but not nearly enough. One can readily cite a number of areas.
Part 2 on health services has commenced only for children under the age of five, and even within that small cohort, problems persist, whereas the accessibility of services such as training, education, general health services and their outcomes for people with disabilities continue to be poorly monitored.
Section 13 of the Act requires a report on unmet needs to be provided to the Minister for Health and Children on an annual basis but with the commencement of the Independent Assessment of Needs not progressing beyond age 5 this cannot turn into the potent planning tool that was envisaged.
Overall there are concerns that there does not yet exist a fully functioning information management system along with timely and focussed support and direction for the Act within the context of the NDS, in other words, effective project management. There are significant State resources available to support the Act and the NDS, starting with the role of the Department of the Taoiseach, the Disability Equality Unit, (currently in Justice but moving to the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs) the NDA and the Office of the Minister for Disability and Mental Health, but to date there is no sense that things are working optimally to ensure progress across the broad public service. Determined and ongoing leadership from central Government is urgently required.
Finally, the Review needs to consider that the Act was given further understanding and expression within the Disability Lifecycle in Towards 2016, the Programme for Government ”07 and the Renewed Programme for Government ”09 and these need, to be considered fully in this Review.
The Disability Act, as part of the National Disability Strategy, encapsulates the hopes and ambitions of people with disabilities, and the families and organisations who support them. This Review must not be seen only as a technical exercise but it must protect these hopes and ensure their delivery in these difficult economic conditions.