Tuesday, 5 October 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
482. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the role his Department will play in supervising and monitoring the disability package announced by the Government on 21 September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23796/04]
Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Seamus Brennan): The national disability strategy announced on 21 September last is designed to underpin the participation of people with disabilities in society. My Department will play an important role in that strategy through the enactment of the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 and through the Department’s sectoral plan under the Disability Bill 2004.
The primary purpose of the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 is to facilitate the introduction of a new personal advocacy service for people with disabilities which will be administered by the national information agency, Comhairle. Under the provisions of the Bill, this new service will provide for the assignment of a personal advocate to a person with a disability who is unable or who has difficulty in obtaining a social service without the assistance or support of the personal advocate. The main function of the personal advocate will be to assist, support and represent the person with a disability in applying for and obtaining a social service and also in pursuing any right of review or appeal in connection with that service.
The sectoral plans to be drawn up by six Ministers under the provisions of the Disability Bill 2004 form an integral part of the national disability strategy. Under those plans, the relevant Ministers will set out service provision for people with disabilities, the measures to facilitate access to these services and the planned improvements.
The Department’s sectoral plan was published in outline or draft form in order to allow a period of consultation and discussion with relevant interests before the plan is finalised and laid before the Dáil for approval. The objective of the outline sectoral plan is to ensure that, as far as is practicable, schemes and services provided to people with disabilities operate in a manner which facilitates their full participation in society and meets the mainstreaming principle of the equality agenda.
The outline sectoral plan draws on the Department’s statement of strategy 2003-05, entitled Promoting a Caring Society, which provides the framework for progressing and developing its services to all its customers within the timeframe of the statement. It gives a brief description of the range of schemes and services designed to meet the income support needs of people with disabilities and covers a range of issues including performance standards for claim processing, supports for people with disabilities to return to work or education, consultative processes designed to proactively seek the views of people with disabilities, physical access to departmental premises, specific measures for visually or hearing impaired customers and the role of Comhairle in meeting the needs of people with disabilities, including the new personal advocacy service to be provided under the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004.
The position of people with disabilities will be improved significantly through the introduction of the new personal advocacy service provided for under the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004. In addition, the Department’s sectoral plan will provide a focus for the future development of services for people with disabilities coming within the Department’s remit and such a focus will become a regular feature of Departmental reporting on its activities and improvements planned for the future.
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