State agencies missing disability targets

A large number of state agencies, including the Equality Authority, have no employees with a disability despite a statutory target that they should account for at least 3% of their workforces.

The 2013 census of staff in the public service shows that 47 out of 239 state bodies reported having nobody with a disability on their staff.

None of the 22 employees of the Equality Authority, the remit of which is to promote equality for people who face discrimination including on grounds of disability, had a disability. The authority recently merged with the Irish Human Rights Commission — another body without an employee with a disability among its six staff — to form the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Among the other agencies with no reported staff with a disability were Foras na Gaeilge (60 employees), the Family Support Agency (13), the Digital Hub (11), Safefood (32), the Institute of Public Health (25), the Pensions Board (45), the Law Reform Commission (18), and the Adoption Authority of Ireland (23).

Others included the Garda Inspectorate (12), the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (11), the Irish National Stud (61), Shannon Development (23), the Injuries Board (68), the Private Residential Tenancies Board (21), and Oberstown Children Detention Camps (202).

However, the proportion of people with disabilities working in the public sector reached its highest ever level in 2013, despite the fact there were 147 fewer staff with disabilities employed by government departments and other state agencies.

A total of 6,464 people with disabilities were working for the public service at the end of 2013 out of a total workforce of 192,575, which translates as 3.4% of all public servants — up from 3.3% in 2012. It is the third successive year that public service staffing levels have exceeded the 3% target established under the Disability Act 2005.

The National Disability Authority (NDA), which monitors compliance with the 3% target, said that the most likely explanation for the fall in the number of staff with disabilities last year was the retirement of older employees recruited under special competitions first introduced in 1977.

The NDA said the overall figures are heavily weighted by the Health Service Executive, which accounts for a third of all public sector staff. If HSE numbers were excluded, the percentage of staff with disabilities would be just under 4%.

Of 239 state bodies that supplied data, 152 exceeded the 3% target, while 87 failed to meet it.

The HSE had a total of 177 fewer employees with disabilities at the end of 2013 which resulted in the percentage of the overall HSE workforce falling from 2.2% to 2%.

The NDA said it was concerned about the reduction by the largest employer in the State, as the HSE had not provided any particular explanation for the decrease.

It also expressed concern that there were few indications the 3% target formed a central part of workforce planning in public bodies.

All 17 government departments exceeded the 3% target with an overall rate of 4.4%. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had the highest rate at 6.7%.

Non-commercial bodies, including the HSE, institutes of technology, and cultural and advisory bodies, were the only sector that failed to meet the target as they reported just 2.5% of staff with a disability.


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