Written Answers. - Employment Equality.
11 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date towards meeting the 3% target of people with disabilities employed in Government Departments and other public bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17119/03]
40 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the mechanisms that are in place to strengthen the enforcement of the 3% quota for recruiting people with disabilities into the public services. [13749/03]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 40 together.
My Department has a key role in the development of disability equality policy and legislation. As part of that remit, my Department collects data in relation to the 3% target for employment of people with disabilities in the public service, excluding Civil Service data which is collected by the equality unit in the Department of Finance. Although the target has yet to be achieved, there has been a degree of progress over the past number of years. The overall statistics for the public service – other than the Civil Service – at 1 January each year are as follows:
The figures given for January 2000, January 2001 and January 2002 are provisional figures as returns are outstanding from a number of individual public service bodies. The annual census is currently under way in relation to the position on 1 January 2003.
Each Department is responsible for taking appropriate action to ensure that public bodies under its aegis achieve the 3% target. This principle was set down in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and is reinforced in Sustaining Progress which provides that: "Civil and public service employers will implement agreed codes of practice for the employment of people with disabilities and promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities in line with the Government's 3% employment target."
A monitoring committee established and chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform helps to monitor and guide progress in relation to the target. It has supported a number of initiatives in recent years including: approval of a draft code of practice for use in the public service and exploration of the options for common selection procedures for people with disabilities; raising awareness of the 3% target among, and giving information to, chief executives, personnel officers and disability equality officers in the public service through a series of eight regional seminars, and publication of an information brochure; publication of a brochure designed to encourage people with disabilities to consider a career in the public service and promotion of this option at the public sector careers expo in April 2001; commissioned research on the issues and barriers relating to achievement of the target in six public service organisations. The report, published in November 2001 and titled Research Project on the Effective Recruitment of People with Disabilities in the Public Service, provides an insight into some of the issues which hinder progress and includes recommendations to facilitate improvements; in partnership with the Equality Authority, launched an employer resource pack on 3 December 2002 to assist public service employers in the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities; and further research is currently in progress which will support the committee in improving reporting on progress by public bodies as well as addressing the specific administrative measures which public service employers need to take. The Minister for Finance is responsible for the 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service.
The annual survey of the position on the employment of staff with a disability in the Civil Service shows that 930 people with a disability were employed at the end of December 2002 – equivalent to 2.8% of total numbers.
A review of the 3% target and the career progression of people with a disability in the Civil Service, commissioned by the Department of Finance, has been completed. The report provides useful information about the position of people with a disability working in the Civil Service and makes recommendations for practical steps which can be taken to make certain that the Government's policy operates effectively for the benefit of people with a disability.
Discussions are under way between the equality unit in the Department of Finance and the Civil Service staff unions on the recommendations. The aim is to agree a new joint approach to the implementation of the target and to improving the existing policy for the benefit of people with disability throughout their careers in the Civil Service. Agreement has been reached with the Civil Service staff unions on an outline approach to developing action plans to ensure the effective implementation of the policy.