Speeches

Speech by Minister of State Mr Tim O´Malley TD at the AHEAD / University of Limerick Forum on Employment Issues for People with a Disability

Training and Employment for People with Disabilities

There is no doubt that over the years people with disabilities have been at a disadvantage in the areas of training and employment. However, this situation has been addressed in recent years through a range of government initiatives. The Government is fully committed to supporting training, developmental and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

In June 2000 responsibility for Vocational Training and Employment Services for people with disabilities was transferred from the Department of Health and Children to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Government’s decision to mainstream these services was taken in response to a recommendation of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. The assignment of this responsibility to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, brings these services within the mainstream and has opened up options for individuals which were not previously available. As of now, the number of people with disabilities on mainstream FÁS training programmes has almost doubled. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has also introduced a Supported Employment Programme and commissioned a review of sheltered employment.

There is a fresh impetus to the development of services provided to people with disabilities in the area of training and employment, including the following noteworthy initiatives:

  • With effect from August 1st 2001 all trainees on Department of Health and Children Rehabilitative Training programmes have received an extra €31.80 per week training bonus in line with that paid to trainees attending FÁS .
  • The assignment of responsibility for vocational training and employment services for people with disabilities to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
  • The provision of additional funding by the Department of Health and Children has made possible significant improvements in service provision in day care, training and sheltered work.
  • The creation of 500 new Rehabilitative Training places in 2002 represents an increase of 24% nationally in Rehabilitative Training places. The full beneficial impact of these extra places was only fully felt in 2003-2004
  • The development of a draft Code of Practice for Sheltered Workshops has been completed and the draft Code has been received in the Department of Health and Children for its consideration. The introduction of this code will help to clarify the status of people with disabilities in sheltered occupational services, and ensure that these services in the future will meet approved quality standards.
  • A review of funding for sheltered work services is ongoing which will lead to a better understanding of the funding requirements of these services, and facilitate the optimal use of available resources.

Employment Support Scheme – Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Arising from the Government decision of June 2000 to mainstream services for people with disabilities, responsibility for employment support measures for people with disabilities was transferred from the Department of Health and Children to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment has recently completed a review of employment support measures for people with disabilities and has developed proposals aimed at improving the access of people with disabilities to employment. In doing so they have been very conscious of the need to effectively address the “benefits trap” issue.

The proposals from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for new/enhanced employment support measures for people with disabilities are briefly as follows:-

  1. A significant improvement to the existing Employment Support Scheme whereby employers providing full-time employment to people with disabilities receive a wage subsidy to compensate for any diminution of productive capacity arising from a person´s disability. This proposal is aimed at encouraging more employers to employ people with disabilities.
  2. The extension of current capital grant provisions to enterprises employing people with disabilities.
  3. A proposal to change the terms of the existing Back to Work Scheme for people with disabilities is likewise under consideration by the Department of Social and Family Affairs

We live in a time of great change and improvement for people with disabilities and their families as we move from a medical based model of service provision to a mainstream model, which recognises the right of people with disabilities to participate in society in an inclusive way. The Report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities in 1996 set the framework for the future direction of successive Government policies on disability issues.

The establishment of a National Disability Authority and the mainstreaming of Information, Training and Employment Services are tangible actions that have already been taken to improve services for people with disabilities. The implementation of the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts, have provided a clear legal framework within which discrimination against people with disabilities can be addressed.

We are, thankfully, beginning to see the effect of all of these changes, in greater social inclusion, integrated education and training, and increased occupational opportunities. Jointly, the programmes undertaken by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Department of Health and Children are bringing real improvement to training and employment services for people with disabilities.

We are, however, just at the beginning of such developments. Like all significant social and economic changes, the objectives will not be achieved overnight, and will take some time to work through. However, the actions taken by the government over the past five years have laid a solid foundation for an irreversible journey of change which, progressively and inevitably, will lead to real improvement in the quality of life of people with disabilities in this country.