Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters

Aligning Disability Services with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Discussion (Resumed)

Mr. Adam Harris:

I will speak to the Deputy's question and pick up on Mr. Doyle's point. It is an interesting idea. There are probably two layers to the question. There is a political responsibility piece and an operational piece. One of the problems we have had for a long time, particularly when we talk about adults, is that there has been one stool for health and another stool for everything else. If an adult wants to pursue further education, get a job or access certain services in the community that are not specifically health-based, the Department of Health and the HSE will say it is not a matter for them. However, if that person speaks to any other Department or agency, he or she is told it is a health or disability matter and the person concerned should go back to those services. One of the good things about the transfer of the disability policy unit from the Department of Justice and the disability section of the Department of Health into the new Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth is that there is, hopefully, an opportunity to think about disability in a broader way.

The challenge from an operational point of view is that there has always been three stools, namely, primary care, disability and mental health. Many people in the community fall between those stools because there is a lack of accountability. It is worth saying that a majority of disabled people actually get services in primary care and mental health as opposed to disability. We need to ensure that now there are two political masters, there is not a situation where that only gets worse. It is clear that what is there now does not work. It is for the HSE and the new Department to show in the coming financial year that it can work. If it does not, there are questions to be asked as to whether it can operationally be delivered in an agency that has two Departments overseeing it.