The Center for Independent Living National Personal Assistance Service Consultation Day

was held on  the 24th June 2013
53 participants attended a national consultation day organised by the Center for Independent Living Carmichael House (CIL CMH).
The conference took place at the F2 Centre, Rialto, Dublin 8. The purpose of the conference was to discuss a draft Personal Assistance Service Bill prepared by CIL CMH in order to get feedback from Leaders and others associated with the independent living movement.
The morning session was chaired by Michael McCabe, Chairman of CIL CMH, who introduced each speaker.  There were four speakers: Martin Naughton, co-founder of CIL CMH who is a highly regarded disability activist, Owen Collumb, a Director of Greater Dublin CIL who runs his own PAS through a limited liability company, Marian Harkin M.E.P. who was recently appointed vice-chair of the European Parliament Disability Intergroup and Gary Lee Chief Executive of CIL CMH.
Martin gave a very entertaining account of the founding of CIL, introducing PAS as a pilot project to Ireland and a trip abroad to Southampton CIL via London.  He along with Michael McCabe and six others set about securing funding from Europe for the pilot project, this involved not an inconsiderable amount of skill and bluff on their part.  A week long volunteer PAS was run as part of the funding campaign and included a reconnaissance mission to England which at one point involved negotiating a wide van over a narrow bridge to cross to the other side. Against the odds and somewhat defying physics they made it through.  It was a fitting metaphor for the struggle to get PAS to Ireland and to have the Government continue to fund it eventually extending it throughout the country.  Martin said that while he seemed to get most of the credit it really was down to many other leaders around the country who made things happen
Michael noted that Martin omitted to mention that during the trip abroad Martin broke his ankle but soldiered on regardless!
Owen gave a very honest and frank account of his own personal circumstances.  He spoke of the challenges facing those who wish to go down the direct payments route and shared the benefit of his experience in that regard.  In order to receive direct payments he had to set up a limited liability company and a micro-board (a circle of supportive friends) to assist him.  Even with this in place the payments were made to him not directly but through a brokerage.  Owen was particularly busy on the day in addition to his speech he also facilitated one of the consultation sub-groups and prepared the report for the group Rapporteur!
Gary related two news items from the morning news one was about a mother of two who, although she is not ill, has been in Beaumont hospital for the past 2 years at a cost to the State of€500,000.  She could live at home however she has been refused a housing adaptation grant and cannot get home support.  The result is her effective imprisonment in hospital whilst her children are deprived of a mother.  The second news items concerned direct payments to farmers.  114,000 farmers receive direct payments, the 10 largest payments (all to food companies)range from €434,000 to €299,000.  Over €1.5 billion is given to Irish farmers annually in this way, yet when it comes to direct payments for people with disabilities the Government refuses and talks of the difficulties that would be involved and the lack of accountability.
Gary went through the provisions of the proposed Bill in detail.  It would give a right to PAS for those who need it, it sets up an independent appeals process, details what PAS is, who qualifies as a PA etc.
Marian said that many farmers who receive direct payments are small holders and they get their payments for very legitimate reasons however she noted the point that they get paid directly whereas people with disabilities do not.  She spoke of her role in Europe and the relevance of what goes on in Europe to the lives of people with disabilities in Ireland. She noted that the anti-discrimination Directive which went through the EU Parliament is now stuck at the EU Council. She discussed social/cohesion funding and gave an insight into the EU budget negotiations which are currently underway.
Following lunch participants broke into facilitated groups, each of which also had a note-taker, to discuss the Bill in detail. Each group then appointed a Rapporteur who in turn reported back to the conference.  The notes from each group will be studied over the coming weeks and amendments will be made to the Bill based upon same.  The amended Bill will be sent out to the participants sometime in August for further feedback.   
All the photos can be found on facebook, please click this link :