Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Fiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)
I want to speak for a moment or two about the disability protests outside the Convention Centre this morning. I joined the carers, parents and families assembled there. It was not just frustration and anger that were palpable, but also huge despair. People really feel they are at the end of their tether. A group called Enough is Enough organised this particular protest. This story is not new to people with disabilities. In late January, I met representatives from the Muiriosa Foundation and the KARE organisation, which looks after people with disabilities in Kildare and west Wicklow. I met the CEOs of those organisations, as well as staff members and the families for whom they cater. This is really about young people with disabilities and their families. There was also a huge sense of despair at that point because a 1% cut in disability funding had just been announced. This would really cut down on the services' residential spaces and respite services. Given that the majority of adults with disabilities are now living with parents who are over 70 and many are living with those over 80, the situation for these people is very difficult.
I am really glad that the Taoiseach announced this morning that the cut will be reversed and that €20 million will not be taken out of the disability budget. There is some sense of relief. However, there is major frustration regarding what has happened during the Covid-19 crisis. Young and old users of day services have not had access to them since March.The roadmap for reopening disability services was published two weeks ago but we need more clarity, particularly around transport. We have a situation at the moment where services can open part-time but the people who need them have absolutely no means of transportation to them. That is completely wrong. We need a full opening of day services. I look forward to engagement with the Minister on this.