Written answers

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Staff

Photo of Holly CairnsHolly Cairns (Cork South West, Social Democrats)
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478. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the low levels of persons with disabilities employed in third-level education institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62814/21]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be aware that the National Disability Inclusion Strategy includes an action for public bodies to “increase the public sector employment target of persons with disabilities from 3% to 6% by 2024”. The current percentage target is 3% however, in recent weeks, the Cabinet has given approval to commence drafting the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021.

The Bill includes measures to further realise the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ireland, including legislating for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission's (IHREC) position as the national monitoring body for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and increasing the public sector duty regarding the employment of persons with disabilities from 3% to 6%.

Part 5 of the Disability Act 2005 requires public bodies to report on their compliance regarding the employment of persons with disabilities. My Department assumed responsibility for Part 5 reporting in 2021 and submitted its report to the National Disability Authority earlier this year in respect of the 2020 returns for the public bodies under its aegis. Those returns confirm that the overall compliance rate for the aegis bodies under my Department in 2020, in terms of the percentage of employees with a disability, was 4.97%. This is an improvement on the 2019 figure of 4.15%.

These figures confirm that the majority of bodies under the aegis of my Department are currently exceeding the 3% target and are well placed to meet the new public sector duty of 6% proposed under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2021.

I believe that my Department can play a leading role in terms of improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Under the current National Access Plan (2015-21), the 8% target set for new entrants to higher education has been exceeded with 12.2% of new entrants in 2019/20 declaring a disability. I intend to publish the next National Access Plan (2022-26) in early 2022 which will set new ambitious targets for students with disabilities.

I have recently published a new Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-25. The expanding range of opportunities available within apprenticeship, as well as changing work practices in traditional areas, provide a step towards increasing opportunity for persons with a disability and other traditionally under-represented groups. Under the Action Plan I want to ensure that there is clear information on existing supports for persons with a disability and that these are made visible to employers and prospective apprentices through www.apprenticeship.ie. Employers who demonstrate examples of good practice will be acknowledged through initiatives such as a diversity badge. I also intend to establish an apprentice bursary/support scheme to fund up to 100 apprentices per year who are experiencing severe socioeconomic disadvantage and who are from target groups, including lone parents, people with disabilities, Travellers and Roma.

My Department will continue to play its part in improving opportunities for persons with disabilities to engage in education, undertake apprenticeships and gain meaningful employment.


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