Pay demands ‘will trigger second recession for those with disabilities’

Groups call for supports for assistive technologies for older people and disabled

John Dolan (left): we have witnessed  “start of the unravelling of the discipline of the Lansdowne Road agreement”.  Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

John Dolan (left): we have witnessed “start of the unravelling of the discipline of the Lansdowne Road agreement”. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

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If the Government does not resist further demands for pay increases across the public sector it will be triggering a “second recession” for people with disabilities and their families, an Independent Senator has said.

John Dolan, who is also chief executive of the Disability Federation of Ireland, said no government should allow itself to be “bullied” into a situation where it had to concede the reasonable and long-awaited expectations of people and families who urgently needed to see very significant improvements in public services.

Speaking at the launch of a report on assisted technologies for people with disabilities and older people, Mr Dolan said: “If pay claims domino across the public service, this will only succeed in wrecking the restoration and development of vital public services and undermine our recent and very hard won economic sovereignty. Everyone in this room knows the price that you and your families paid for that.”

‘Unravelling’

Mr Dolan said we had witnessed in recent days “the obvious start of the unravelling of the discipline of the Lansdowne Road agreement”.

“Yet again, the 600,000 people with disabilities, their families and almost 200,000 carers will be paying the bill unless our Government stands up and fights for the services that we all so badly need. Very simply, I am putting the challenge to the Taoiseach and the Cabinet to hold the line. Because if they don’t, they are effectively triggering a second recession for people with disabilities and this is as unacceptable as it is unjust.”

Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland jointly published a paper on assistive technology for people with disabilities and older people, calling for a cross-Government policy statement on the issue.

Assistive technology (AT) is any product or piece of equipment used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of older people and people with disabilities.

Fragmented

The groups expressed concern that current service provision in this area was “fragmented and under-resourced”.

“Assistive technology, when used appropriately, has the potential to support people with disabilities and older people to exercise their human rights and become more active members of society,” it said.

The paper also recommends the introduction of an AT “passport” to help users of such technology to access the training and supports they need.

In Ireland, the statistics in relation to education and the employment of people with disabilities made “grim reading”, Mr Dolan said.

They were less likely to complete third level, or even second level and participation of working age people for persons with disabilities in the labour market was less than half that of the general population. “That’s frightening – it’s disgusting, it’s unacceptable.”

Mr Dolan said it was hoped the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be ratified within the next few weeks.

“That means Ireland has to get on its bike and start implementing it.”

Siobhán Long, assistive technology manager with Enable Ireland, said AT did not have to be costly.

More than 60 per cent of the AT solutions used by 236 people who responded to a survey had cost less than €1,000 and a further 22 per cent cost between €1,000 and €3,800.

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