'Significant gaps to inclusion' remain for people with Down syndrome

'Significant gaps to inclusion' remain for people with Down syndrome

The public believes that 20% of people with Down syndrome are currently in paid employment, the survey found. In reality, meaningful employment for people with Down syndrome is approximately 6%, despite the fact that many more people would like to work. File photo

There are “significant gaps” preventing the inclusion of people with Down syndrome in Ireland, a new report has found.

The report, Upside, published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), found there were differences between public perception and aspirations when compared to the lived reality for the people with the condition in the State.

A survey conducted as part of the research found that 87% of adults agree that there should be supports for adults with Down syndrome to engage in further and higher education.

Some 71% of adults with Down syndrome who have already left school would like to attend further education.

However, before the pandemic, just 29% of adults with Down syndrome were doing some kind of course, many of which were delivered in a health care setting by care staff.

On health, 80% of the public believe waiting times should be no longer than six months for someone with Down syndrome to receive their health assessments, tests and start their therapies. However, in 2019, the average number of therapy sessions for a person with Down Syndrome was five a year.

More than half of the people who responded to a recent survey of DSI members had been offered no therapy at all.

The public believes that 20% of people with Down syndrome are currently in paid employment, the survey found. In reality, meaningful employment for people with Down syndrome is approximately 6%, despite the fact that many more people would like to work.

The research was conducted through an online survey across a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults.

Barry Sheridan, chief executive of DSI, said the report aims to highlight “just how much further we as a society have to go to call ourselves truly inclusive”.

Ireland has the lowest rate of employment and one of the highest poverty rates for people with disabilities in the EU, according to the Oireachtas Disability Group Pre-Budget Submission 2021.

“We need to change this. We have participated in numerous pilot programmes, but significant gaps to inclusion remain. The time for discussion has passed. Now it is time for action,” Mr Sheridan added.

The charity has outlined 21 demands for this Government to bring about real change in achieving disability rights in this country.

These demands include calls for full implementation of already adopted legislation and policies, as well the need for urgent updating of long-standing laws which are out of date, irrelevant and unfit for purpose.

“For example, there is key legislation such as the 2015 Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act, that has not been fully implemented,” Mr Sheridan said.

This leaves vulnerable people having their capacity challenged using the 1871 Lunacy Act, a 150-year-old law. 

"It is unacceptable and shocking that it is still in place. Let’s make it the last anniversary of this law.” 

The charity has also launched a 60-foot street artwork of 21-year-old Amanda Butler, at the junction of Harcourt Street and Clonmel Street in Dublin City Centre, to highlight the campaign.

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