I support this amendment on the basis that it extends, in a minor way, the services to be covered by a needs assessment. I hope the Minister of State will take it on board and indicate some movement on the issues we have raised. An understanding of our point of view and sympathy from the Minister of State is not good enough in this case. We need action on these amendments for this legislation to reflect the hopes and desires of the many people who contributed.
I indicated previously that my party objects to the circumscription of services which shall be the subject of an assessment of need under Part 2 to health and educational services only. The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out of order amendments tabled originally by Deputy Lynch on Committee Stage which would have corrected this problem and which I endorse. I refer to amendments Nos. 47, 74, 129 and 153. It is deemed that they would impose a burden on the Exchequer when, in fact, they are cost effective and should be regarded as an investment on which there would be a return. Since these amendments were ruled out of order, we must make do with the amendment tabled by Deputy Stanton and Deputy Murphy, which is not a bad one, although it does not go far enough. If the Minister of State were willing to take it on board, it would show some good faith. When we review this legislation in a number of years, what we have pointed out here will have been borne out and at least we will be able to say the Minister of State took it on board.
I am opposed to the Government's patronising, medicalised approach in Part 2, which this amendment tries to change slightly. The Government's approach does not acknowledge nor reflect the reality that people with disability are routinely excluded by design from much more than health care and education-related services. They are excluded from the workplace, independent living, transport, communications, and from participation in many aspects of life which able people take for granted. These structural impediments or obstacles prevent full inclusion on an equal basis. Disability-specific services, which should be provided on the basis of need and as of right, constitute more than could be appropriately provided by the Minister of Health and Children.
The formulation of Part 2, to which this amendment relates, reflects the Government's view that the Department of Health and Children will provide only those services which people with disabilities truly need and for which they should be assessed. I disagree with this. As the disability legislation consultation group pointed out, disability-specific services, to which those with disabilities should have a right, are those which enable them to participate fully as equals in society and maximise their ability to live their lives as independently as possible to their full potential and as equal citizens. They include housing, training, employment supports and transport and can also include access to communications technology and a range of facilities that have no connection with health and basic education. The amendment refers to "a personal social service, such as home care, respite care, personal care and social supports".
The point of the recommendation that the legislation should assert the right of people with disabilities to an independent assessment of needs is that such an assessment must be made independently of the service provider, the Health Service Executive or the Department of Health and Children within the inevitable organisational and financial constraints, with some of which the preceding two amendments dealt. Otherwise, the assessment will not reflect the individual's true needs and will therefore become only a statement of what is available to the person, which is not good enough.
My preferred formula, as reflected in my disqualified amendments, was to establish an unqualified right to assessment of need in regard both to disability-specific services and other supports necessary to maximise independent participation in and contribution to society. Some of the supports required in this amendment would help maximise the independence of people with disabilities.
I would also prefer that what constitutes a disability-specific service would be defined by regulation on advice from the National Disability Authority in a published list, organised by category service and updated annually. It is disturbing that my amendment to require all such disability-specific services to be provided in a manner consistent with Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights has been disallowed. This amendment proposed a minimum standard for service provision. It has been ruled out of order on the basis that it would impose a charge on the Exchequer.
Amendment No. 44, which we are not discussing, also relates to Part 2. Articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights cover torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, the right to privacy and family life. That convention is part of the corpus of Irish law and I do not understand how the Government can refuse to accept an amendment based on the convention, much less rule it out of order.
There are no justiciable rights in regard to minimum standards for service provision in this Bill. Without my amendment a person, by reason of cost, would not be able to challenge the Government on the basis of providing a service that violates standards under the European Convention on Human Rights. That is repugnant and morally wrong.
I support amendment No. 39 because it attempts to improve this legislation. Any change is to be welcomed but I am not confident that the Minister of State will take it on board because he has dismissed virtually every amendment which would improve this Bill in any minor or major way.