Dáil Éireann - Volume 656 - 05 June, 2008

Written Answers. - Services for People with Disabilities.

Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children how she will progress the National Disability Strategy; the timeframe for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22169/08]

  Deputy John Moloney: The National Disability Strategy was launched by Government in 2004 and underpins the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society by building on existing policy and legislation. The Strategy comprises five elements:

Disability Act 2005;

Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004;

Sectoral Plans published in 2006 by six Government Departments;

Citizen’s Information Act 2007; and

A Multi-Annual Investment Programme for disability support services of €900m for the period 2006-2009.

[544] Part 2 of the Disability Act provides people with disabilities with an entitlement to:

an independent assessment of their health and education needs

a statement of the services it is proposed to provide

pursue a complaint through the HSE complaints process if necessary

make an appeal to the independent Disability Appeals Officer

Part 2 of the Act commenced for children aged under 5 years with effect from 1st June 2007. Children under 5 years were chosen as the priority for the introduction of the assessment of need process under the Disability Act because of the importance of intervention early in life. This can have a significant impact on the disabling effects of a condition or impairment.

The commencement of Part 2 in respect of children aged between 5 and 18 will be introduced by 2010, in parallel with the implantation of the EPSEN Act 2004. The statutory requirements of Part 2 of the Disability Act will be extended to adults as soon as possible but no later than 2011. The HSE has also appointed Assessment Officers and Liaison Officers in each LHO area. The Assessment Officer is responsible for the co-ordination of the Assessment Report, while the Liaison Officer has responsibility for the provision of the service statement. At the end of March 2008, 1,836 applications for assessment of need have been received and are being processed by the HSE.

The Health Sectoral Plan sets out the actions which the Department of Health and Children, the HSE and 27 statutory bodies will take to meet their obligations under the Disability Act 2005. It represents a commitment at all levels of the health service to access and equity of service for people with disabilities. In December 2007, the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive published the first of three annual reviews of progress on the Sectoral Plan. Further targets have been identified, specifically in relation to planning for the commencement of the Act for 5-18 year olds and adults. This includes work with the Health Services Executive, the Department of Education and Science and the National Council for Special Education and other relevant stakeholders.

The Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006 -2009 was announced as part of the Budget Day package in December 2004. It outlined the Government’s commitment to a programme of revenue and capital expenditure, amounting in total to around €900m, on specific disability support services over that period. The bulk of this funding is being spent in the health services.

A key development which will assist in progressing the National Disability Strategy was the Government’s decision in January of this year to establish the Office for Disability and Mental Health. This Office will assist me in exercising my responsibilities across four Government Departments: Health & Children, Education & Science, Enterprise, Trade & Employment and Justice, Equality & Law Reform. The new Office brings together responsibility for a range of different policy areas and State services which directly impact on the lives of people with a disability. The Office will aim to bring about improvements in the manner in which services respond to the needs of people with disabilities by working to develop person-centred services, focussing on the holistic needs of clients and service users and actively involving them in their own care.

The social partnership agreement Towards 2016 outlines our vision for people with disabilities, the Programme for Government supports the implementation of the National Dis[545] ability Strategy. This Government will work with the social partners to achieve continued improvements in the quality of life of people with disabilities. The ultimate aim is to provide people with a disability an opportunity to live a full life and to participate in society.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 49.