‘More must be done to get those with disability into work’

Róisín de Búrca is 25 years old. She finished college four years ago and has been unable to get work since.
‘More must be done to get those with disability into work’

She is a fluent Irish speaker with a Leaving Certificate, a business administration qualification from Galway Technical Institute (GTI) and a certificate in Arts from NUI Galway. She is also a former recipient of Bank of Scotland’s Student of the Year award and sits on the National Advisory Council of Down Syndrome Ireland.

There may be plenty of graduates looking for work but Róisín is aware that she holds a visible disadvantage. Roisin has Down syndrome.

“I would love to be out working in an environment that is acceptable and challenging for a person with a disability, who could really bring a lot to the workforce,” says Ms de Búrca, from Leitir Moir in Connemara.

Just 30% of people with a disability are in the workforce while this figure stands at 60% in the general population.

At a Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) conference ‘Make it Work’ yesterday, Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath said: “While people with disabilities in their late-20s and early-30s do take up work in significant numbers, their employment rates are considerably lower than their non-disabled peers.”

And, just because a young man or woman has an intellectual disability doesn’t mean that they can’t hold down a regular job, added Down Syndrome Ireland.

Yet, only 4%-5% of the intellectually disabled have meaningful work as the perception exists in the workplace and wider community that they are “not able”, says Down Syndrome Ireland CEO Pat Clarke.

Mr McGrath said there is a “need to redouble our efforts in implementing the comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities, which was launched over a year ago.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, CEO of DFI, Senator John Dolan said that there has been a “huge improvement” in the education of the disabled but that the “second part” of the solution hasn’t been put in place.

He said there was a “lack of ambition” around hiring people with disabilities in the public sector while the private sector “has to open up” too.

The “same resolve”, he said, must be applied to getting people with disabilities to work as was applied to getting the many unemployed back into employment after the economic crash.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil disability spokesman, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, said the failure of the HSE to carry out more than 2,500 disability assessments “is a direct contravention of human rights”.

Ms Murphy O’Mahony was responding to an Irish Examiner

story that highlighted that less than 60% of necessary assessments were carried.

“Minister McGrath must come before the Dáil and explain why the HSE is failing to asses people within the statutory six-month period,” she said.

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