TD says people with disabilities 'not charity cases'


People with disabilities should not be regarded as charity cases, the Dáil was told during a debate on disability funding and services.

Simon Harris (FG, Wicklow) said it drove “people with disabilities crazy when the debate is reduced to one about social welfare cheques”.

Such payments were vital to many people, but “we must stop talking about people with disabilities as charity cases”.

“All too often the culture and viewpoint in this House and often in broader society is that the State writes the cheque, hands it to the person with a disability and it is a case of job done, social conscience eased; we have done our bit.”

It was “a rights agenda and a programme of reform we must focus on”, he said during the debate on a Fianna Fáil Private Members’ Motion.

Special education needs

Mr Harris said he had a relative with special education needs who was born and grew up during the boom. “When Fianna Fáil was in government disability services were well funded,” he added. “We also have that aim. However, my relative could not access many of the services he needed.

“People with disabilities will explain that even when the country was flush with money, when it was thrown around like confetti, there was still an issue with disability services.”

They “want us to listen and to pursue and progress a rights-based agenda that recognises that the needs of people with disabilities go above and beyond a weekly or monthly social welfare payment”.

Mr Harris also said the State “must plan better for school-leavers with intellectual disabilities”. The big rush every summer to find places was unacceptable.

“We must move to a system of personalised budgets and examine the type of place a person wants” and give them the dignity to choose the place “rather than assigning the money to a service provider”.

“Extensive supports”

Minister of State for Health Alex White said funding provided to programmes, in addition to the annual €1.4 billion investment by the HSE, “enables people with disabilities to avail of an extensive range of financial supports and services”. The challenge was to ensure the funding was used effectively and “directed to the needs of the individual in the first instance”.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, who introduced the motion which called on the Government not to impose arbitrary cuts in funding to service providers, said he did not expect extra funding.

“In the name of God,” Mr Kelleher said, “will the Government do something about removing the arbitrary assessment and examine the individual organisations doing a wonderful job, day in, day out, throughout the country?”

If an organisation was inefficient “then deal with it, but do not make everybody pay”.