Thursday, 15 October 2020
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Disability Services Provision
I thank Deputy Moynihan for his question and ongoing interest in matters relating to people with disabilities. My Department is committed to inclusion with equality of opportunity for all, regardless of disability, gender, civil or family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, race or membership of the Traveller community.
In particular, my Department leads the Government’s corporate social responsibility agenda and works with businesses through our national corporate social responsibility action plan. This was developed through collaboration with major business stakeholders. The plan seeks to, among other things, encourage business to develop strategies for the employment of people with disabilities.
While responsibility for policy on disability inclusion lies with the new Department with responsibility for children, disability, equality and integration, this is an area of vital importance to the work of all Departments. The new Department leads on two whole-of-government national strategies, the first being the national disability inclusion strategy and the second the comprehensive employment strategy for people with a disability.
My Department is represented on the implementation groups for both of these strategies and has committed to a number of actions to promote the inclusion of people with a disability in the workforce. For example, Enterprise Ireland is in the process of creating a strategy which will promote and support entrepreneurship and self-employment for people with a disability. IDA Ireland is developing a pilot initiative in co-operation with other Government bodies and stakeholders aimed at enhancing the ability of job candidates with disabilities to avail of employment opportunities in foreign-owned companies based in Ireland.
My Department has also established a disability consultative committee to provide a focus for disability inclusion in respect of our policy work, schemes and initiatives. Members of the committee include nominated representatives of disability groups, along with Department officials and colleagues from our offices and agencies.
Our Department has two access officers. They are specially assigned staff members responsible for co-ordinating assistance and guidance for people with disabilities, helping them to access, to the widest possible extent, the full range of services that we provide, including how best to access our buildings as well as the range of publications in alternate formats that we have available.
I thank the Minister for his reply. He mentioned his Department's ongoing engagement with Enterprise Ireland and entrepreneurs who have disabilities and hope to set up businesses or who have an idea they can develop into a business and career for themselves. What is the status of that in the Department? What work has been done in the Department and Enterprise Ireland to bring forward a meaningful scheme?
It is vitally important that in the process of bringing forward that scheme there is engagement, insofar as is humanly possible, from people who have experienced significant frustration in getting grant aid or people to listen to their ideas and encourage them. In terms of developing a scheme, the Department should encourage entrepreneurs to reach out to people who have had engagement with the Department and Enterprise Ireland and find out where the stumbling blocks are.
I thank the Deputy. Enterprise Ireland and the National Disability Authority, NDA, are currently creating a strategy that promotes and supports entrepreneurship and self-employment for people with a disability. The steps being undertaken are the introduction of a broad-based programme offering basic information and training to a large audience of people with disabilities, the development of an awareness campaign which utilises success stories of self-employed and entrepreneurial models with a variety of disabilities and an assessment of the uptake of the programme.
Certainly, if the Deputy has any particular suggestions, ideas or wisdom he would like to share with us, I will be happy to speak to him offline or connect him with the people in Enterprise Ireland who are working on this.
I thank the Tánaiste for that offer and I will certainly do that. It is of great importance as we go forward to realise that there are various strategies within all Government Departments on inclusion. This has to be developed to its full extent. It is also very important that those who have been struggling to get beyond the red tape, for want of a better word, and those who are frustrated by the system are listened to and engaged with. I will bring the details of all of the correspondence and discussions I have had with people to the table. I would very much like to engage with the Tánaiste on this issue and to bring forward, insofar as possible, a meaningful scheme that can fully engage people with disabilities who may have an idea that they want to develop into a career and something worthwhile that can benefit them and their communities. I look forward to working with the Tánaiste on that.
I thank the Deputy. I will be happy to follow up on that. My people will be in touch with his people. The pandemic potentially creates an opportunity for people with disabilities, particularly those with a physical disability. The fact that remote working and homeworking have now become normal creates new opportunities for people with disabilities to be involved in the workplace and to run businesses from home, or from accessible remote hubs, and we should seize that chance now.