Jobs strategy for people with disabilities has ‘significant shortfalls’

Strategy aiming to increase employment by 15% criticised by disability advocacy groups

 Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality  said the associated costs would be met by the relevant department’s annual budget allocation over the lifespan of the jobs strategy.  Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality said the associated costs would be met by the relevant department’s annual budget allocation over the lifespan of the jobs strategy. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

 

There are “significant shortfalls” in an upcoming Government jobs strategy for people with disabilities, according to advocacy groups.

The Government will this week launch a Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities which aims to raise employment among people with disabilities by 15 per cent in the next decade. However, it expects most of that increase will not come to pass until toward the end of the 10-year strategy, stating that raising employment levels for those with disabilities is a long-term project which “will take time to bear fruit”.

“A high proportion of those not in work have moderate to high support needs, and it may take time to reorient current systems of support to address those needs,” a draft of the strategy seen by The Irish Times states.

Rewarding career

The strategy aims to ensure that “people with disabilities can get a job and enjoy a rewarding career”.

It focuses on capacity, not incapacity and aims to build the skills and independence among young people before they finish their education and to put in place mechanisms that prevent those who acquire a disability in adult life from becoming jobless. However, four disability advocacy groups – the Centre for Independent Living, Inclusion Ireland, Mental Health Reform and WALK – wrote to the Taoiseach criticising aspects of the strategy, including a lack of an implementation plan, costing or additional resources.

They said, in its current form, the strategy was “unlikely to lead to the required change in culture of exclusion and inequality relating to employment supports for people with disabilities” and called for a senior Minister to lead responsibility for employment activation among people with disabilities.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice and Equality said this was a strategy paper, not a funding package. He said the associated costs would be met by the relevant department’s annual budget allocation over the lifespan of the strategy.

Up to 600,000 people in Ireland are affected by some level of disability. The 2011 census showed that just a third of people of a working age with disabilities (112,000 people) were in employment compared with two thirds of the general population.