4th of July or Independence day

On the 4th of July – or Independence day, (following a briefing by CIL CMH.)

 

Leaders questions in the Dail - Thomas Pringle TD asked An Taoiseach Enda Kenny the following 2 questions regarding Independent Living.

 

He specified about the cuts to PA hours and the state’s failure to ratify the UN Convention.

 

Please click on the link below to actually see the clip  :


http://media.heanet.ie/oireachtas/asx.php?Channel=Dail&Date=20120704&StartTime=01:48:05.000&Duration=00:07:33.000
 

Deputy Thomas Pringle:As the trappings of power are bestowed, Members should remain aware that we are here by the grace of the people. Given that everyone should be treated with equal respect and dignity, why is this not the case for certain citizens? The Government has spouted much talk about the importance of a decent quality of life for people with disabilities. The so-called programme for Government pays lip service to a commitment to facilitate people with disabilities with a greater level of participation in society. This statement is at odds with the state of fear in which people are living. The cut of 11% in funding for the centres for independent living is affecting the provision of personal assistance and cuts to community employment schemes on which the centres rely to provide this service have affected their ability to operate.

The Government committed to paying €64 billion to bail out the banks. This sum would provide 306 million hours of personal assistance for people with disabilities and equates to financing the largest personal assistance provider in the country for more than 150 years. As I speak, we await the publication of the long overdue value for money review of disability services. It is plain to all that continuing to provide people with disabilities with a personal assistant is much more cost effective than any alternative. Many people who rely on this service already have had their allocated hours reduced, which already has limited their quality of life. Any further cuts would leave many housebound or, worse, would put them into a position in which their only option would be an institution. One can only imagine the disdain being felt by disabled persons and carers, who fear for their only route to independent living, when they learn today of tenders for silk scarves and neckties to be bought at the expense of the State. I argue that silk ties are not something with which we should be bothering. The key issue is whether the Taoiseach can guarantee there will be no further cuts to such services and that personal assistance hours will be protected as the Government devises its seismic December budget about which Members are hearing so much from Government circles.

The Taoiseach: The issue raised by the Deputy is important in the sense that the quality of life for the persons involved is what is central to the entire argument. The purpose of the value for money report to which the Deputy referred is to ascertain the effectiveness of the expenditure of taxpayers’ money in looking after persons who suffer from challenges because of disability. When one speaks to people who work in the service, they themselves point out opportunities where money could be spent in a better and more effective way. It is appropriate that there should be a debate in this Chamber when the report on effectiveness and value for money has come to hand and has been published. I meet people who look after persons with disability and I talk to people with a disability who face that challenge every day, some of whom are wheelchair-bound and others not. They themselves point out how things could be better or could be different.

It is not all about money but is about the best and most effective expenditure to enable those people to have the best quality of life. While I share that view with the Deputy, this is an opportunity for all elected Members, who as the Deputy noted are here by the grace of the people, to define a strategy and to decide what are the best and most effective results from taxpayers’ money that is being paid to organisations, agencies or people in respect of the facilities people receive and the quality of life they derive from that as a consequence. I look forward to having sight of the value for money report to establish whether changes can be made that will make the quality of people’s lives better because of more effective expenditure.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: The Taoiseach’s response will give cold comfort to the people who are losing those personal assistance hours. One does not need a value for money report to show their value, as one only needed to attend the presentation in the audiovisual room by the centres for independent living to see the value and quality of life improvements such hours provide. People need a commitment that their personal assistance hours will be protected, and it is very disappointing that the Taoiseach cannot give such a commitment today. In light of that, will the Taoiseach provide an assurance that the Government will ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will the Government pledge to treat such people with the dignity and respect they deserve as Irish citizens?

The Taoiseach: A number of legislative items must be dealt with before the aforementioned United Nations convention can be addressed. However, I must tell the Deputy that the other day, I spoke to someone who is wheelchair-bound and who must write by using a mouth-based instrument. The point that person made to me was the cost of facilities or additions to wheelchairs, for instance, for those who are disabled is astronomical and there are opportunities for more effective and certainly considerably less expensive facilities to do the same job. If one considers the breakdown of costs, they can be complicated and it may be necessary to have such items specially purpose-built for individuals who may have particular challenges. However, this is an area in which the value for money report will be important. When I speak to people in the centres for independent living, in general they are pleased with the layout and structure of such places and how that allows them to have the freedom to live their lives.

Deputy Pringle’s basis is all about money and while the money pot is limited for everything, as far as I am concerned the Government must get the best and most effective spend in this regard in order that those who reside in the centres for independent living and who have a challenge because of disability will get the best quality of life that can be provided for them. It is only right and proper that all of these areas should be examined in the context of what gives the best result for such people. This is where the emphasis should and will be.