Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health & Special Needs Colm Keaveney has accused the Government of failing people with disabilities.  Today is the UN Day for Persons with a Disability. The theme for 2015 is ‘Inclusion Matters: access and empowerment for people of all disabilities’.

Deputy Keaveney commented, “The UN day for persons with a Disability is a reminder of the progress that still needs to be made to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the agenda that Fine Gael and Labour have pursued has dismantled much of the infrastructure required for people with disabilities to be included and empowered in the communities in which they live.

“The Government came into office promising that people with disabilities were going to be its main social justice priority. However, this commitment was very quickly reneged on and people with disabilities have been subjected to savage cuts to their income and services.  This has had a direct impact on the number of people with disabilities experiencing poverty and social exclusion. The latest statistics from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) has shown that the rate of consistent poverty for those not at work due to illness or disability rose between 2013 and 2014 from 10.8% to 13.2%, while the deprivation rate for this group is 51.3%. Unfortunately, there was very little in Budget 2016 to improve outcomes for people with disabilities.

“Progress on moving people from congregated settings and institutions has been abysmally slow and underfunded. There are almost 3,000 people still living in congregated settings and the HSE ‘prioritised’ the transition of just 150 people from these settings in 2015.

“People with disabilities have suffered cuts to the Housing Adaptation Grant and Mobility Aid Grant. Cuts to these vital payments undermine the Government’s own policy of keeping people in their own homes and shows that its apparent commitment to inclusion is not matched by action.  This is in contrast to Fianna Fáil’s time in government when dramatic changes and improvements in terms of legislation, planning, specialist service provision and access to mainstream services and activities for people with disabilities were introduced.

“People with disabilities should not just be seen in the context of their disability. They should not be side-lined or defined by their disability alone, regarded as ‘the vulnerable’ or ‘the weak’, in need of our charity and our pity. People with disabilities are full and equal citizens, entitled to dignity and respect, and the right to exercise choice over how they wish to live their lives. This UN Day for Persons with a Disability is a reminder of this and the challenges we face in achieving this. These challenges are not insurmountable, but we need a Government that will demonstrate leadership, vision and a commitment to bring about real and tangible change if this is to be realised”.