Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Section 39 Organisations: Motion [Private Members]
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Ó Caoláin fá choinne an ábhar seo a ardú agus, go háirithe, as ucht an rún seo a chur os comhair na Dála. This motion maps out the key elements of a long-term strategy for section 39 users based on equality, and for the protection of section 39 employees in this not-for-profit sector upon which so many citizens depend.
The 1916 Proclamation states the Republic guarantees "equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation". It does not, as the Minister of State knows, state: "except for those who have a disability, those who need healthcare or those who suffer from mental health issues." It does not state that bankers, landlords or insurance companies should have extra rights but, of course, we do not have a Republic based on the Proclamation. In this State, citizens with a disability suffer from higher levels of poverty. They have to fight for public services they should be entitled to. They survive on the lowest annual average disposable income. This situation has been made even worse by years of service cutbacks and a lack of service provision.
Section 39 organisations provide essential services. The WALK PEER programme in Louth, which enables young people with a disability to access opportunities in education, training and employment, has had to constantly fight for funding and resources. Respite services for Louth have been a constant battleground. In February 2013 the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government scrapped the mobility allowance scheme and the motorised transport grants. That was almost seven years ago. The grants have still not been replaced. In September, the Government published its legislative programme for the autumn session. Nowhere does it even reference the Health (Transport Support) Bill, which is supposed to plug the gap left by the 2013 decision.
There are 643,000 citizens in this State with a disability. That is 13.5% of the population. Louth has a higher-than-average percentage of citizens with a disability, at almost 14%. The section 39 public sector provides an indispensable service for these citizens as well as the elderly, the young, those suffering from substance abuse or those at risk of suicide, and it is the backbone of community development projects. They include SOSAD Ireland, which deals with citizens at risk from suicide, Louth Age Friendly, Dundalk Parents and Friends of the Intellectually Disabled, and Louth Community Drug and Alcohol Team. Without their dedication and commitment, many would fall through the cracks into even more dire circumstances. This motion seeks to resolve effectively the many difficulties currently within the section 39 sector.
This Government is in government just for the sake of it. If tomorrow this motion is passed, as I hope will be the case, the Government will have to act on it. There should be no more nonsense of supply and confidence from our friends in Fianna Fáil, which is propping up the Government. Let us deal with the needs of the citizens by making this motion a reality.