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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 May 1978

Vol. 306 No. 5

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Job Creation for Handicapped.


asked the Minister for Labour if he will formulate a special programme of job creation for mildly handicapped people.

The quota scheme for the employment of disabled persons in the public sector covers both physically and mentally handicapped persons and I expect that it will improve the employment prospects of mildly handicapped people.

I have arranged that the scheme will be monitored very closely to see, among other things, how the various categories of handicapped benefit under it. This should help to identify any group who might need special treatment within the scheme.

The introduction of the scheme in the public service will, I hope, also be an encouragement to employers in the private sector to consider favourably the employment of handicapped persons at every opportunity.

I am aware that this is a particularly difficult question when we have such a high level of healthy people unemployed, but would the Minister consider the desirability of introducing legislation in order to try to establish that a minimum number of disabled people would be employed in the public and private sector? I am sure he has good wishes and goodwill on this issue, but he must know the only way practically any country has done this is by insisting on a minimum number of jobs being made available for handicapped people.

My own preference at this stage would be for encouragement for the private sector. We have been slow enough to move into a positive role in the public sector. Now we have a positive target figure there. I would hope that move would be an encouragement to the private sector. It is fair to say that many private firms share our concern for handicapped people and give them an opportunity of obtaining employment. I believe encouragement rather than legislation at present is the way to build up a confident feeling that these people should be employed in private industry on a percentage basis, as a percentage of the work force.

Can the Minister say what is the position in the public service? Do they have to accept a minimum, or are they advised to take in as many as they can?

As the Deputy is aware, an inter-departmental committee was set up recently. The target over five years is that 3 per cent of the employees in the public sector, with the exception of the Army, the Garda, and so on, would be handicapped persons. That inter-departmental committee has had a number of meetings. I hope to provide an encouraging role for the private sector.

The remaining questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.

On a point of order, on the Order of Business this morning, I raised a question which has been ruled out of order. In view of the fact that no statement has been made by the Minister for the Environment on the subject, could we invite him to make a statement in the House tomorrow morning?

The Deputy has made several efforts to discuss this matter. He knows why it has been ruled out of order. If he has some other question to ask the Minister he can proceed in the ordinary way and seek to have it put on the Order Paper.

I accept there is the problem that it is sub judice, but the Minister knows that the statement he made was not factual. We are offering him an opportunity to correct it, lest the House might think he misled us deliberately.

The Deputy is raising this matter in a rather backhanded way.

I want to put the record straight. I am sure he did not intend to mislead the House.