Press Release

Speech by Dr. Jimmy Devins T.D. Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health Office for Disability and Mental Health at the Official opening of Post Polio Support Group’s Conference and A.G.M. Saturday 19th April 2008, 10.30 a.m.

I am delighted to be here with you this morning in Rosses Point, Sligo, in my capacity as Minister of State with responsibility for the Office for Disability and Mental Health and to officially open the Post Polio Support Group’s Conference and Annual General Meeting.

I had the pleasure of meeting with you and launching a publication called “Post Polio Syndrome Management and Treatment in Primary Care” last year.

I would like to extend a special word of thanks to Hugh Hamilton, the Chairman of the Post Polio Support Group, for the kind invitation to be with you here in my home county this morning.

A Conference such as this takes a significant amount of work to organise. The input from the various speakers today will make for a very interesting and enlightening experience.

I also understand that there is an exhibition at the conference this weekend, “A Celebration of the Creativity of Polio Survivors”. I have been informed that your members are a very talented and creative group of people.

The art and photo element of this exhibition will move to the Exhibition Space at the Primary Care Centre in Barrack Street, Sligo from 22nd April to 10th May 2008. I am iinformed that it will be your organisation’s contribution to the Bealtaine Festival of Creativity in Older Age. The Project was supported by the HSE Arts and Health Programme, CAWT, and Sligo Co Council.

Of course, there is so much more to this weekend’s event than exhibitions, speeches, presentations and festivities. Events such as these provide opportunities for people to share their experiences.

I’m sure the value of being able to converse with those who completely understand what life is like as a polio survivor, cannot be overstated.

As we go through life all of us are affected, either directly or through friends or family members, by disabling conditions of some nature or other.

Such conditions present those affected with numerous questions, emotions and challenges. In order to best overcome these experiences, a combination of solutions is required.

Research, care and most of all support are essential to enable people to achieve their maximum potential in life.

It is essential that adequate information is available to people, their families and friends, to provide answers to their many questions. Public awareness is vital to enable people to gain the respect that they deserve, as valued members of our community.

Organisations such as the Post Polio Survivors Group have provided the support needed as they make their way through daily life.

Ireland has an invaluable tradition of partnership between the statutory and voluntary bodies. In a society that has changed so dramatically for everyone over the last few decades the inter-action between service providers in the voluntary and statutory sector has provided people with disabilities with the back-up they need to forge their way through life.

This is an opportune moment for me to acknowledge the work of the Post Polio Support Group and their efforts on behalf of those suffering the Late Effects of Polio.

The range of activities undertaken by the organisation, which receives funding from the Health Service Executive, is impressive.

There’s no doubt that your work has contributed to improving the quality of life for many polio survivors and their families.

I don’t intend to keep you too long, but I thought I should outline this Government’s continuing commitment to people with a disability.

We have put in place the policy, the legislation, the plans, the institutional arrangements and the additional services which will support and reinforce equal participation for people with disabilities.

We are committed to continuing the significant financial investment in supports for people with disabilities, including personal allowances, employment schemes and revenue and capital funding for education, health and personal social and other services.

The Government will continue to prioritise the interests of people with a disability.

An emphasis needs to be placed on the abilities of people with disabilities so that we can push forward with the Government’s policy of mainstreaming.

The Government’s framework of policy, strategy, legislation and services will promote positive action and will support participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The Disability Strategy will be managed from a whole of Government perspective.

The primary focus of this Government’s investment in services for people with a disability is on meeting the identified needs of people with disabilities.

Recognition by this Government of the importance of implementing the National Disability Strategy is highlighted by the commitments outlined in the social partnership agreement Towards 2016 and in the Programme for Government.

Despite the substantial increase in services for people with a disability, including residential and day places and multidisciplinary support services, this Government acknowledges the significant demand for new services and a growing requirement to enhance existing services.

We are committed to continuing the significant financial investment in supports for people with disabilities.

As Minister of State for Disabilities and Mental Health my appointment to 4 Government Departments and my cross Departmental assignments reflects this Government’s commitment to the mainstreaming agenda.

We recognise that there are issues that are of particular relevance to people with disabilities which require a cross Departmental response.

The fundamental idea of the Office for Disability and Mental Health is to get all Departments working together in a structured approach to the delivery of services for people with a disability.

I can assure you that my key goal is to work hard to improve the life of anyone in Ireland with a disability or a mental health problem. The best way that I can do this is by driving measures to ensure effective co-operation across Department and agencies.

I would like to conclude now by wishing you all a very successful conference and Annual General Meeting.

I trust that it will be a useful and informative day and that you all enjoy the festivities this evening.   Thank You.