Since they have taken up office, the Fine Gael/Labour Government has failed to make any mention of how they plan to tackle the growing problem of a lack of job opportunities for people with disabilities, according to Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford John Browne.

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Social Welfare Bill 2011, Deputy Browne criticised the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton for ignoring the issue in her speech on the proposed new legislation.

“In the ten pages of the Minister’s script, there is not one reference to job opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Many people with disabilities now go on to second level and even third level education.  They are very well educated and in many cases do all kinds of courses, including FÁS courses and courses specifically for people with disabilities.  Yet at the end of all that, they still find it very difficult to secure a job.  Not enough is being done to encourage employers, and perhaps employers themselves are not doing enough, to employ those suffering from a disability.”

Deputy Browne has urged Minister Burton to consider increasing the requirements of Government and State bodies to employ people with disabilities  number of employees with disabilities at Government and State bodies.

“The Minister might take a direct interest in the 3% target for the number of people with disabilities whom Government bodies are supposed to employ.  I believe that local authorities and Government bodies around the country are not adhering to this target. In my view, it is a bit of a sham.  There is no way 3% of the workforce employed by the State are people with disabilities. It is certainly an area that needs to be examined. 

“Many of those with disabilities, whether they are in a wheelchair, use a walking stick or otherwise, are well educated and highly skilled, and they would make excellent, committed workers.  We have been hiding behind the 3% target for a long time and we need to reconsider it.”