Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters

National Disability Inclusion Strategy: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank all the witnesses. The optional protocol has been mentioned. I hope that we will have ambition as a committee and drive a wider transformation in all aspects of Irish society. One of our early functions can be as a ticking clock around the optional protocol and suites of legislation. I was struck that there is much legislation that needs to be revised or that is already on the table and is not being progressed, and that needs to be dealt with.

The witnesses mentioned the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission's function as an independent monitoring mechanism for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities needs itself to be put in place with that disability Bill, so moving ahead with that legislation is important.

I am aware that the Mental Health Act 2001 is extremely out of date and not fit for purpose to be compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Do the witnesses have comments on the Mental Health Act?

The NDA spoke about commencing the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. There are questions about whether it is adequate and if it needs to be amended and improved.

Regarding the mental health issue, there have been real concerns about the lack of proper statutory independent advocacy services, as was promised under action 60 of the national disability inclusion strategy for adults and children with mental health concerns in hospitals.

The other key area that I wanted to focus on is article 19, on living independently and being included in the community. I have strong views on being included in the community. The witnesses know that I am strongly supportive of the Community Participation (Disability) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that was before the last Seanad. On living independently, I know the NDA has monitored the move away from congregated settings, but it seems to have been monitoring moving to smaller units of ten persons or less. What progress is happening not just in moving from larger to smaller congregated settings, but to actual independent living and supporting that? In terms of any comments on the Rebuilding Ireland strategy and the action plan for housing, is that properly and fully engaging with the need for more independent living options for those with a disability? I note that the NDA commented on universal design. Is it satisfied with the level of engagement on universal design in that strategy?

I know that there have been issues with accessibility of public services in the past when services were being procured. This arose with regard to transport. Will the witnesses comment on procurement and the importance of public duty, and equality and human rights carrying forward into the area of procurement?

Arising from what Dr. McDonagh said about abuse, are there any views about adult safeguarding legislation? I am conscious of the rise of domestic abuse, elder abuse and abuse targeted towards those with a disability in a climate with less public activity, such as with the Covid pandemic.


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