Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
National Disability Strategy
86. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the steps she has taken to implement action 128 of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43213/20]
Action 128 of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy refers to the commitment to “develop initiatives to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities living in rural areas, including through remote working options”.
My Department is currently finalising a new and ambitious rural development policy for 2021-2025. This new Policy will include measures to address issues that matter to people in rural Ireland, and will promote an inclusive society where no one is left behind. Maximising the availability and accessibility of meaningful employment options in rural areas is one of the policy’s central priorities. Furthermore, the new rural development policy aligns with the Programme for Government and other Government strategies to deliver on government commitments to support people with disabilities.
The new policy places a particular emphasis on the potential of remote working to deliver transformational change for people living in rural areas. Backed by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and supported by an integrated infrastructure of remote working hubs across the country, remote working can enable more equal access to digital services and increased employment opportunities for all. The policy also supports the further enhancing of accessible public transport services in rural areas, which can further assist people with disabilities by providing greater connectivity and an increase in local and regional employment opportunities.
Separately, through the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme my Department provides funding to Local Development Companies (LDCs) to carry out work with disadvantaged individuals and the groups that support them. Persons with a disability are included as a target group under the programme. From January 2018 to June 2020, LDCs provided information about lifelong learning opportunities to over 800 individuals with disabilities that lived in rural areas, information regarding labour market supports to over 500, and self-employment supports to over 200. Of the persons receiving support, 983 participated in a lifelong learning activity, 86 progressed into employment and 69 progressed into self-employment. This type of support will continue over the lifetime of the programme, which runs from 2018 to 2022.