Order of Business: Tuesday, 28th of April
Senator Zappone debated issues related to dissabilities in the Seanad. In the light of Ireland's recovering economy, the Senator belives it is time to begin spending on public services again and suggests that the focus should be on those who are most vulnerable in society and those most impacted by the austerity cuts. The Senator chose to speak for the 600,000 persons with disabilities and their families in Ireland. Senator Zappone urges that The promised comprehensive employment strategy for those with a disability needs to be completed and implemented.
Read the Senator's full speach below:
As we heard today, the economy is continuing to recover at a faster rate than was previously forecast. I welcome that and I also welcome the 50:50 split between reduction of taxes and increase of public services. Many of us called for that, not least the Labour Party. That is good news. However, we must ask whether, now that we are reaching the point where we can start spending on public services again, this will ultimately be good news for everyone. I will take the opportunity to remind the Government of those who are most vulnerable in society and who have been most severely impacted by the austerity cuts. I will focus on one group among them, the 600,000 persons with disabilities and their families, including 200,000 carers who were not protected during the downturn. Cuts in HSE funding for disability services over the period between 2008 and 2013 amounted to 14.7%, and that has resulted in those with disabilities having lost the most basic and critical services of income supports which urgently need to be given back. I refer to the primary income supports impacting those with disabilities and their families. The disability allowance and the carer's allowance have also been cut by 8%. There is a lot of spending to be done in that area. The national disability strategy was to be a significant and practical implementation plan to advance social inclusion for those with disabilities. However, the funding cuts have been counteractive to that plan and the strategy needs to be implemented effectively without delay and the funding needs to reflect its objectives.
We heard in recent days and today that the Government is predicting full employment by 2018, yet those with disabilities are experiencing considerable difficulties accessing employment and are excluded from many of the employment activation programmes. The promised comprehensive employment strategy for those with a disability needs to be completed and implemented. I request an update regarding these plans from the Minister of State responsible for disability services, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, and also ask her to comment on whether there is a sincere commitment from this Government to include those with disabilities and their families in the economic recovery.
I have another question relevant to those with disabilities. I ask for an update on the completion of section 12 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014 which is to replace section 5 of an earlier Act of 1993. It has not yet been published. All the other aspects of that Bill have been published. When can we expect that section of the long-overdue Bill to be finalised in order that it can be debated in the Houses?