Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I warmly welcome the ratification, at long last, of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Minister of State referred to a number of important developments, including the national disability inclusion strategy and the 100 measurable and time-specific actions to deliver it. I wonder if he could report to the Dáil on what has been achieved. The Minister of State also referred to the living in the community and time to move on programmes, as well as personalised budgets, which are crucial initiatives that need massive funding support from the Government. I wonder what steps have been taken to achieve that also. For example, as a member of the budget oversight committee, I have with other Deputies expressed the view that the health and disability budget is at least €800 million to €1 billion short of what is needed to implement basic programmes. This is the Minister of State’s area of responsibility, as is the delivery of the UNCRPD.
Last November, the Minister of State told me:
It is essential that the State is in a position to meet the obligations that it assumes under the terms of an international agreement from the moment of its entry into force for Ireland. Before the State can ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, enactment of new legislation and amendment of existing legislation is required to ensure obligations will be met upon entry into force for Ireland.
Unfortunately, this has been the excuse since 2007, which the Minister of State has continued for the past two years in justifying the unpardonable delay in ratifying this important convention. It leaves us in the shameful position of being the last country to do it. Although I warmly welcome the ratification, the reality is that we are ratifying the convention without the necessary legislation and those amendments, referred to by the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, being enacted. Some advocates in the disability area have referred to the motion as being therefore hollow. The ratification is crucial and welcome but it is disrespectful to those who have advocated for this that the necessary legislative changes have been consistently delayed. For example, the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 should be finally enacted by August 2018 and the deprivation of liberties legislation should be enacted by the end of 2018, according to the Minister of State. Additionally, he said the decision support service should be operational in 2019 but he gave us no timeframe in that regard. Perhaps he will come back to us in his response. The Minister of State also said the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 is expected to be fully commenced by January 2019. All these must be implemented. It is critical that we have full information and that the Government brings forward these measures.
I am proud to be a member of the informal Oireachtas disability committee group, chaired outstandingly by Senator John Dolan. I commend my colleague, Senator Dolan, and other disability advocates who have worked tirelessly for the rights of persons with disabilities, including on the adoption of this convention at long last. As I mentioned, the budget for disability services was slashed by €160 million or 10%, as the Minister of State knows well, between 2008 and 2015. The total expenditure was partially restored to €1.66 billion in 2017 and, as the Minister of State noted, €1.76 billion in 2018, and he seems to have only secured €25 million for additional services in 2018. We must remember that the profound damage done to citizens with disabilities and their families by the crash is deeply apparent in continuing cutbacks in services in all areas of disability, including independent living.
The Minister of State and I represent the same constituency and every week we hear from constituents who are either persons with disabilities or who care for a family member, including raising a child, with a disability. The barriers to services they face are never-ending. The Minister of State knows I have made many representations, for example, on behalf of parents of young children awaiting diagnosis and assessment or older school leavers who are unsure if they will have access to daily placement. Those young children are not vindicating their rights under the Disability Act 2005, which stipulates a three-month waiting and operational time.
The motion before us today makes no mention of the UNCRPD’s optional protocol, which Ireland had indicated that we would also be ratifying. The protocol would allow for groups or persons to take a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Will the Minister of State outline the policy in that regard? Inclusion Ireland and other advocates have asked that the advisory committee to be established should consist of a majority of people who have experience of various aspects of disability, as per Malta’s advisory committee. That is very important so will the Minister of State confirm that this will be done by the Government. With those caveats I am delighted to support, at long last, the ratification of this convention.