Speech by Tim O’Malley TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, on the Occasion of the Official Opening of Enable Ireland’s Conference “Enabling Excellance – Ní neart gan cur le chéile” Croke Park, Wednesday 21st September 2005

Chairman, distinguished guests, members of Enable Ireland,  Ladies and Gentlemen. I am very pleased to be here today and I would like to thank Fionnuala O’Donovan, your Chief Executive Officer for her kind invitation to officially open this prestigious conference ‘Enabling Excellence’.

I have been delighted to attend many launches of Enable Ireland projects during my tenure as Minister of State such as, the opening of their SEAT project, their Children’s Service in Ballykeeffe in Limerick, and when I presented graduation certificates at a ceremony in Microsoft HQ in Sandyford some time ago. I note that the theme of your conference is “Ní neart gan cur le chéile” and at that graduation ceremony for Enable Ireland’s High Tech Assistive Technology Course I was able to see first hand the outcome of Enable Ireland’s partnership with Microsoft and the Dublin Institute of Technology. The projects presented that day by the graduates highlighted what can be achieved when those at the cutting edge of technological advancement work in partnership with youth at the cutting edge of ambition.

It is this theme of partnership and forging links with those achieving excellence in their specific fields that is allowing Enable Ireland clients to achieve their full potential. Enable Ireland strives to provide the best possible service to its clients and to this end they have acknowledged the need to examine their own performance by adopting the European Quality Management Excellence Model. This excellence model requires Enable Ireland to continually demonstrate improvements to the services it provides in a tangible way. Enable Ireland’s desire for excellence within its own organisation will ultimately improve the services it provides.

By implementing the Excellence Model, Enable Ireland has further developed a national approach to team working and it is significant that today they acknowledge the need to look outward and are prepared to share the experiences that they have gained with others.

Over the last 20 years, as Enable Ireland has had to adapt and change, so has Irish society. This in turn has improved the lives of people with disabilities. We now see a growing emphasis on the development of more community based services and a very significant enhancement of the range of support services being provided, with the emphasis on increasingly enabling people with disabilities to remain within their local communities and to live as independently as possible.

The growing recognition by society in general of the right of people with disabilities to participate in and contribute to the social and economic life in Ireland, and internationally, has underpinned much of what has happened in more recent years.

Some of the significant milestones along this road have included;
•The recognition of the need for the development of a more person centred approach in providing support services
•An awareness of and emphasis on the abilities of people with disabilities. The move from institutional settings to community based services and a recognition of the need for a greater range of support services delivered in a flexible manner which meets individual needs
•The very significant investment by the Government 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.
•Finally, the various legislative and policy measures, including mainstreaming, which have been put in place by the Government in the areas of equality, education and access to facilities, services and information.

I believe that this has been achieved through the partnership approach that Enable Ireland is emphasising here today. Partnership cannot be confined to a relationship between the statutory and non-statutory sector. The development of services for people with physical and sensory disabilities is a complex issue as there is such a wide range and variety of disabilities included in this category. To meet the needs of people with physical and sensory disabilities, a wide range of interlocking and complementary services is often required. This combination of services can only be achieved when everyone involved in the delivery of services actively works together in partnership.

The National Disability Strategy is an opportunity to identify priorities in the services for people with disabilities. It is a framework of positive action measures to support participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The Strategy consists of four elements –
•Disability Act 2005
•Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004
•Six Outline Sectoral Plans, and
•A commitment to a multi-annual Investment Programme for disability support services.

My Department has published an Outline Sectoral Plan in respect of the specific health and personal social services provided for people with disabilities. This is very much an interim plan, designed to encompass a programme of work which is to be undertaken over the next 12 to 18 months. The main aspects of this programme are related to the provisions contained in the Disability Act 2005, together with a strategic review of the services as a whole.

This review is examining the significant level of service provision which is already in place, focusing on specific issues which are of concern to people with disabilities and their families and carers, together with statutory and voluntary bodies in this area, with an opportunity to input into the planning and delivery of services over the coming years.

Once again, I would like to thank you for asking me here today to open this conference and I wish Enable Ireland every success with its future work throughout the country. I will end by saying that the expression “a lot done – a lot more to do” comes to mind but that expression may be suffering from over use. Maybe Government should do as Enable Irelands has done and look to the Irish language for its inspiration because “ar scáth a chéile a mhairimid”.