Newsletter September 2013
Issued on September 1 2013
In a speech on citizenship delivered earlier this month, the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, stated that “the recession cued particular suffering for people with disabilities and for their families”. Noting the Government’s shortcomings in responding to the needs of its diverse group of citizens, she questioned whether some citizens are valued more than others.
Ms O’Reilly’s message corresponds with the approach taken by the Disability Federation of Ireland. As an organisation, we represent the rights of people with disabilities to be fully included in all aspects of Irish society. The disability movement has been hit hard over the past five years. This makes the work of the disability movement all the more essential in light of the challenges posed to people with disabilities during these years of austerity. We have seen the services and supports which they and their families need to access consistently withered away by the harsh measures imposed through recent budgets. Their disintegration denies people with disabilities the right to live the ordinary lives they are entitled to.
As Ms O’Reilly remarked, the choices to cut these programmes and supports were undoubtedly difficult for Government to make, but they were made nonetheless. The needs of a group of citizens, who should be valued equally, were not met. While we recognize that Government must set economic targets, they need to be there to ensure that people can live their lives with independence and well-being. Sustainable social outcomes for people with disabilities and their families should be prioritized alongside financial considerations. Recovery – both economic and social – must include people with disabilities.
DFI has joined with several organisations in recent weeks to call on government to protect and invest in people with disabilities in the upcoming budget, and to bring the social aspect back into the frame. We need to develop a long-term plan so that, when we move out of austerity in two or three years time, we are not met with a wasteland in terms of the services and supports which people with disabilities need to access. Government now faces both a challenge and an opportunity. In leading and supporting the restoration of these services, it can demonstrate its true value of citizenship, and our organisation will be keen to respond to that.
John Dolan, Chief Executive Officer