Wednesday, 27 April 2005
Ceisteanna — Questions.
Question 2: To ask the Taoiseach the policies of his Department in respect of the employment of persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8769/05]
Question 3: To ask the Taoiseach the number of staff vacancies in his Department; the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the overall staff which this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11818/05]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.
There are no vacancies in my Department at present. My Department and the bodies under its aegis are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all staff. Staff are recruited through the Public Appointments Commission on the grounds that they meet the requirements of the positions they are to fill. The issue of disability does not affect recruitment. No exception is made by my Department in this regard. In line with other Departments, we follow the guidelines set out in the Code of Practice for the Employment of People with Disabilities in the Civil Service.
Promotion, training and all other benefits and opportunities are decided on the grounds of ability, qualifications and other relevant objective criteria. The percentage of staff with a disability at my Department stands at 3.64%, which is above the suggested target.
I am glad to hear the percentage of staff with a disability in the Department of the Taoiseach is 3.64% and that this is over the target set in the programme for Government. Does that target also apply to temporary staff in his Department? In other words, if people are being recruited on a temporary basis, does the same level of targeting for persons with a disability apply to temporary employees?
As I understand it, the target is for the total number of staff. The Department is judged on the quarterly report on its total staff. My Department has always sought to treat the matter realistically. I do not consider the Department's achievement to be great, as the number is small. I would like to see a higher figure. We are always seeking new ways to appoint people with disabilities, many of whom could take the opportunity if we could provide it. They have a very valuable contribution to make. I would like to see the figure for my Department rise to 4% or 5%.
Do the Department's employees with a disability, whatever it may be, move within the Department, or are they confined to the one position or job that they have been doing? Many public servants move between sections within departments. Is that done in the Department of the Taoiseach?
People with disabilities are treated on the same basis for promotion and recruitment. They are treated exactly the same. The only exception might be for telephonists, who have particular expertise in that area and who tend to stay in that job. In other grades, they can definitely move.
There is nobody in my constituency office who comes within the category of disabled. I would not have any difficulty, however, if suitable people in the Civil Service system were found. Everybody in my constituency section bar one is a civil servant. The people in my Department who have a disability are as good as and are equal to anybody else. There might obviously be some limitations to their work, but they make up for it well in other ways.
We are talking at cross-purposes, although I accept what the Taoiseach has said about the disability quota. I was querying the number of staff in light of the Taoiseach's recent answer to a parliamentary question on that. I was asking how many additional people there would be, who were not included under that answer, working in the Taoiseach's constituency office.
My question can hopefully be answered straightforwardly. I am wondering about the 4% reduction in the Taoiseach's staff levels. Has he succeeded in making that reduction in 2005, or is any of the reduction coming off the spin doctoring wing of his Department? Am I right in saying the cost of special advisors, programme managers and press officers to the Department of the Taoiseach is €850,000? It was reported that the Taoiseach was proportionally reducing his staff. In what areas has he succeeded in this regard?
An bhfuil daoine ina Roinn atá ar a gcumas gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt trí Ghaeilge? Má tá ceisteanna le cur anseo sa Dáil chuig an Taoiseach trí Ghaeilge, an bhfuil sin indéanta ó thaobh foireann a Roinne?
My Department will reach the reduction target of 4%. With regard to any new vacancy, the Department examines how it might reschedule staff and achieve greater efficiency. We are on course to meet the target and will do so. This will not be achieved by decreasing the workload but by efficiency, and technology helps in this regard by reducing the volume of paper. We must ensure we meet the target but we must not cut any of our services or current workload.
There are people throughout my Department who are proficient in the Irish language when dealing with the public and answering e-mails, correspondence and telephone calls.
The disability legislation consultation group concluded that a more robust mechanism is required for the enforcement of the 3% quota with regard to the employment of people with disabilities. Does the Taoiseach agree that a gradual increase in this quota is needed? I take some hope from his earlier reply when he said he would like to see this increase to 4% and 5%. Does the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform monitor and enforce the quota across all Departments?
My question also refers to the Department of the Taoiseach. Does the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform monitor and enforce the quota with regard to the Department of the Taoiseach and all others? Is there a special unit for that purpose?
In response to an earlier question by Deputy Rabbitte, seven people work in my constituency office.
The enforcement of the quota with regard to the employment of people with disabilities is not easy to achieve and is co-ordinated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which monitors all Departments in this regard. However, it is a difficult task. I would have liked the figure to have increased many years ago, but it is hard to get people to make the effort at times. It has improved in my Department and others, and there are driving efforts to continue this improvement.
People should sometimes take a chance. A person with a disability will lose out if the same rigorous criteria are followed every time. There are many people in the system and it will not be the end of the world if it does not work out 100%. How can it? It is not easy having a disability. The Department of Labour had responsibility for the issue and was traditionally very good in this regard. Individuals made up for their disability in other ways and were always prepared to work longer hours and overtime at weekends. People should press the matter.
The issue of the quota must be pressed, monitored and driven. It is difficult to achieve but there are good people out there and more of them are applying to the Department.