McGrath urges appointment of senior disability minister

‘Any further cuts to respite day care and residential places are not sustainable’

Independent TD Finian McGrath said it was now known that there were 595,355 people living in Ireland with a disability, representing 13 per cent of the population. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Independent TD Finian McGrath said it was now known that there were 595,355 people living in Ireland with a disability, representing 13 per cent of the population. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 20:50

Independent TD Finian McGrath has called for the appointment of a senior Cabinet minister with responsibility for disability inclusion.

“I don’t care who it is as long as that person can focus on the issues,” he said.

Mr McGrath said the Government had missed a glorious opportunity to make the appointment in the current reshuffle. People with disabilities must not become the new underclass of workers and must be afforded an adequate wage, he said. “Any further cuts to respite day care and residential places are not sustainable,” he added.

Mr McGrath was moving a technical group Private Member’s motion highlighting the problems faced by those with disabilities.

It was now known, he said, that there were 595,355 people living in Ireland with a disability, representing 13 per cent of the population. By contrast, there were in the region of 120,000 farmers who had a full-time senior Minister, and so had the estimated 50,000 to 60,000 teachers.

Mr McGrath paid tribute to the various voluntary groups working with people with disabilities, as well as parents, family and friends.

“These are the people who are often the backbone of the service as well,” he added.

Disability, he said, increased sharply with age, and those with disabilities faced delays in accessing support for services. Some 75 per cent using the services were not satisfied with the level of control they had over their lives, which was something that had to be tackled.

Forty-eight per cent of those using services were very dissatisfied with the quality of what was being provided, Mr McGrath said.

He added that families in which the head of the household was not at work due to illness or disability had the lowest annual average disposable income in 2012. “Individuals who are not at work, due to illness and disability, endure among the highest levels of consistent poverty, at 17.6 per cent,” he added. “This overshadows the national average of 7.7 per cent.”

Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch said the Government was committed to the national disability strategy and the implementation of the reform programme for the sector set out in the value-for-money and policy review. “This has been highlighted again in the statement of Government priorities which has just been published,” she added.

Ms Lynch said this would link budgets to activities, outputs, quality and outcomes for service-users.

“The new model of personalised, community-based service must provide greater choice for people with disabilities,’’ she added. She believed, she said, there were people with disabilities who could not advocate on behalf of themselves and she would speak to the Department of the Environment about the withdrawal of funding.