The Minister will be aware that in 2018, 2,535 people were in receipt of a personal assistance service. In this regard, the total number of hours was 1.6 million, which is an average of 1.73 hours per day per person in receipt of personal assistance. The Minister will also be aware that we have received extensive briefings in the past number of months from Independent Living Movement Ireland, as I am sure the Minister has as well.
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter break in the lovely weather and that everyone is registered to vote in the upcoming Local and European elections (check out https://www.voter.ie/ or www.checktheregister.ie). The registration deadline for the Supplementary Register is May 7th and the important thing to note about the locals is that everyone who was resident in the State from the 1st of September last year is eligible to have their voice heard. I’m obviously backing broad left candidates and my colleague, Deputy Clare Daly for Europe.
As a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight I am delighted to strongly endorse this important report, which was launched on 30 May this year. Gender and equality budgeting have been major priorities for our work. I was of course disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, did not present a gender budgeting report alongside budget 2019 on 9 October last, as is recommended in the report before us.
At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the sterling work and reports of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and the Parliamentary Budget Office during the year.
This budget was framed against a background of several challenges, such as the impact of a possible hard Brexit, trying keep an open border with the North, President Trump’s “America First” policy, our over-reliance on corporation tax from a small number of multinationals, the ongoing desperate housing crisis, health waiting lists and, of course, climate change and all the issues highlighted yesterday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. The budget that has been presented is, at best, a type of holding exercise. It is a sadly familiar budget and is principally for the elites of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and their supporters in the property industry.
Today, Deputy Broughan handed in his pre-budget submission to the Department of Finance. In it he calls for increase in Social Protection payments, paying particular attention to measures that would assist in helping lone parents and children out of poverty; for an additional €1.25bn investment in Housing and significant investment in the areas of Health and Disability of €800m plus. Deputy Broughan also call for a clampdown on tax expenditures for the super-rich and for the postponement of the Rainy Day Fund, releasing an extra €500m for necessary personnel and infrastructure.
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.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. Mr. Paddy Connolly, the chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, wrote a moving and impassioned piece in the Irish Examiner today under the heading “People with disabilities are not a diagnosis, they are human”. I presume the Minister of State read the article but if not, I urge him to do so. Some of the words in it struck a chord with me, including, for example, the statement that the “greatest threat to the wellbeing of people who have disabilities is their invisibility” which “renders them non-agents of their own fate, passive recipients of care rather than rights-holders”.
Today in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Broughan will speak in support of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 which will fulfil Ireland’s commitment to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). This long-awaited bill will amend a number of Acts including the Juries Act 1976, the Electoral Act 1992, the National Disability Authority Act 1999, the Equal Status Act 2000, the Disability Act 2005 and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak briefly to this important motion on pension equality and fairness. I commend my Sinn Féin colleagues for raising the matter in the House. It is one I have raised many times as it affects a great many of my constituents in Dublin Bay North, especially women. It has been brought to my attention consistently during the years.
Deputy Broughan submitted a number of Budget 2016 priority recommendations to Ministers Noonan and Howlin and hopes that they take this opportunity, their final budget in Government, to close the inequality gaps in Irish society (which are becoming more evident as growth and concentrations of wealth return to the dysfunctional pre-crash levels). Deputy Broughan highlighted housing, health (including disability), education, childcare and child protection, and social protection as areas to immediately be addressed.