Thursday, 22 September 2022
New Innovations for People with Disabilities (Digital Assistive Technology): Statements
Anne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
I thank my good colleague, Senator O'Donovan, for bringing us through a step in time to explain how organisations were set up and put in place in remote parts of Ireland to support families with disabilities who could not get into larger urban areas to seek support. The Senator mentioned CoAction which is an organisation that has supported a large part of south Cork in the delivery of services. It continues to do so and it has grown and grown.
Senator Clonan is right. The topic of assistive technology is wonderful, but it is only as good as the people who are supporting the persons with disabilities. It is an enabler and a communication piece. It is not and can never be seen as the end piece. To any providers watching these proceedings I say that this is not a get-out-of-jail card for support individuals. I am trying to ensure that we have equity of access for all people with disabilities, no matter where they live, and in enabling them to participate in work and social life, communication with friends and growing that friendship base. However, that does not take away from my responsibility or the responsibility of Government, or providers of HSE services, in ensuring that we have properly funded PA and home support services. That is and has always been a fundamental piece of my budgetary process. Last year, I was quite happy to say that I grew the budget for PAs by six times that of the previous year's budget. I will continue to do so for the simple reason as mentioned by Senator Clonan. His son, Eoghan, should not have to lose his PA during the summer because he is not in college. Eoghan's life does not stop when he leaves college. He needs to be able to participate equally throughout the summer weeks, no different from the rest of the household. That is what everyone needs to have. That is why it will be a priority for me during the budgetary process that the PA provision will stay in place. This is important for all Senators. Not only will it stay in place, but we were not equal in how we paid the staff delivering PA or home support. We paid them a lower wage than we pay those working in older person services. That is why we have struggled to attract people into the delivery of such services. This is not to give anything away. Let us be clear: I do not have any money bagged yet. I am before Senators in the Seanad now and I have to return to more meetings about money at 4 p.m. I have nothing bagged.