Advocacy groups have criticised a new multibillion euro Government plan to help people with disabilities by labelling it a “missed opportunity” that is “short on vision” and fails to address chronic poverty among those affected.
Inclusion Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland made the claims after Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath committed to a series of reforms by the end of the decade as part of the new €1.65bn national disability inclusion strategy 2017-2021.
Under the plans announced by Mr McGrath at Croke Park in Dublin to replace the much maligned national disability strategy which ended two years ago, the Government has put forward new measures to ramp up for those in need.
The plans include greater help for people with disabilities who are seeking work, moves to ensure all public bodies will be legally obliged to offer free sign language interpretation for people with hearing issues, and to put strict conditions on wheelchair accessibility for passenger coach or train services.
The Government plan will also instigate a review of the Make Work Pay proposals to ensure they support people with disabilities, provide extra supports for people with disabilities who are travelling to work, and to address the cost of necessary aids and assistance technology used on a day-to-day basis.
Confirming the plans, Mr McGrath said the €1.65bn four-year plan is about a “whole Government” approach that will guarantee issues for people with disabilities are properly prioritised.
“When I was honoured with my appointment as minister for disabilities, my immediate and continuing focus was, and is, on the person with the disability.
“I have listened to the concerns which they have raised with me regarding the many challenges they face on a daily basis,” he said.
However, despite the positive comments, the plan has been criticised by disability groups and opposition parties for failing to go far enough and map out in greater detail the developments due to take place.
While welcoming the policies put forward, Inclusion Ireland last night said the overall plan is “short on vision” and “doesn’t go far enough to address the inequalities” faced by people with disabilities.
“Real inclusion is about people being visible, taking part and being involved, this new strategy does not deliver that. There has been a two-year gap since the previous strategy ended and not a single measure was fully implemented.
“Sadly, this strategy amounts to nothing more than a long, drawn-out missed opportunity.
“Other important objectives relating to decision-making, education, housing, supports to live independently and wellbeing addressing poverty, are either given scant reference or are watered down versions of the previous strategy,” the group’s chief executive Paddy Connolly said.
The view was echoed by the Disability Federation of Ireland, which said the plan lacks a focus on practical reforms and does little to address the significant levels of poverty among people with disabilities.
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