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 am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the report. I commend the Chairperson, Deputy O’Dowd, and the rest of the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport on their work in holding hearings on accessibility to public transport and presenting us, as Deputy O’Dowd noted in his introduction, with the “experiences of disadvantage, exclusion and unequal treatment” endured by citizens with disabilities, which is a significant cohort of Irish society. When reading the report, I was struck by the comment of our colleague, Senator Dolan, who represents the Disability Federation of Ireland, in late 2017 that people with disabilities “do not have their basic right to free movement”. That is a profound statement on the level of public transport and all other types of transport in the country.
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.
With the grand-standing between coalition partners Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, one would think that there weren’t crises in Health, Disability, Housing, Transport, etc. One such area that Deputy Broughan has been continuing to challenge the Government on is the long-awaited ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was also a commitment in the Programme for Government.
When we last discussed the Bill I was posing a series of questions on the preparation and implementation of the UN convention to the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. I will add a couple of other issues to that. Will he outline in his response if there has been any formal structured consultation process with civil society, and specifically with people with disabilities, since the publication of the roadmap to ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October 2015 to inform the Bill? We were supplied with documents from the likes of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission with observations on the general scheme of the Bill. The Minister of State might remember that early in this Dáil we had a meeting of campaigners for disability rights in Dublin Bay North, organised by, among others, the great Mr. Martin Naughton, who sadly passed away subsequently. The Minister of State was not present that night but the issues arose around levels of consultation.
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.