PEOPLE with disabilities are more likely to face discrimination in the labour market due to the recession, the country’s equality watchdog said yesterday.
The Equality Authority launched its annual report which showed it had responded to more than 8,000 enquiries from members of the public last year and had processed 878 case files.
Of those, 213 new case files were opened in 2009 and 658 cases were closed, with the authority claiming it had exceeded its targets despite cuts to its budget.
However, while the report launch was accompanied by a welcoming of the recently passed Civil Partnership Bill, both the authority and Community Affairs Minister, Pat Carey, said there was a need to be vigilant against discrimination in the face of rising unemployment.
In addition, budget cuts have impacted on the authority, with Angela Kerins chairperson of the Equality Authority, writing in the report: “Unfortunately, while funded, the position of head of legal services remains vacant due to the public service recruitment moratorium. The filling of this post needs Department of Finance approval and while legal policy advice is being sourced externally by the authority, the filling of this post is necessary to ensure best practice in the management and oversight of the legal section.”
At the launch she said older people were finding it harder to get a job and the gender pay gap was also causing concern.
“As for people with disabilities, in the good times there was 60% unemployment but now it is going back to the 70% and 80%. There are significant issues out there.
“We have to be really vigilant. It is not only people with disabilities, it is race too, racial issues are coming to the fore, so we must mind our equality.”
Later she said more people were experiencing racial discrimination, and that it was vital that equality issues be “recession proof”, claiming that society would be weakened if not and areas such as enterprise and tourism would also be damaged.
Regarding the cuts to its budget, she said: “It is not what you spend, it is what you achieve that counts.
“We have a lot more organisations working with us now than we have ever had.”
Mr Carey welcomed the report and paid tribute to the work of the Equality Authority, but said recent progress had been tempered by other findings which he said showed that “racism is deeply and worryingly embedded in Irish society”.
Referring to a recent study on the Travelling community, he said he was concerned that so many people would not want a Traveller family to live next door to them.
He added that there was a need to remain vigilant so newcomers to Ireland or people who had been here for generations were not pushed to one side in the recession.
However, he said the recent passing of the Civil Partnership Bill had been a landmark step, although he said gay marriage was still some way off, stating he wanted people to be “under no illusions”.
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