Disability Bill 2004: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Amendment No. 21 has been discussed with amendment No. 7.

Government amendment No. 21:
In page 24, line 36, to delete "designated" and substitute "assigned".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 26, after line 48, to insert the following:

"(c) The compliance of public buildings with Part M shall be ensured by the allocation of certificates of compliance by a building control officer who will also be charged with the periodic monitoring and inspection of such buildings.”

This amendment seeks to ensure the compliance of public buildings with Part M of building regulations. The Minister of State stated last week that Part M already exists and has to be complied with. I accept this. This amendment ensures such compliance by issuing certificates in the same way that a building control officer would give a fire certificate for compliance with fire regulations. I ask that a similar action would occur in the case of complying with disability legislation regulations. This would guarantee that buildings are complying with Part M.

Periodic monitoring of buildings should also occur to ensure compliance with Part M. Such a provision would strengthen the Bill and I ask that the Minister of State accept it in the interest of fortifying compliance with Part M. Many rules, laws and regulations exist in the State but many are not enforced or complied with. Issuing of certificates would help enforce compliance with these regulations.

People with disabilities, in wheelchairs or otherwise, have difficulty in accessing railway stations. I know this from my own neighbourhood, which has a railway station. A public body must ensure that such stations are accessible to everybody; the current situation falls short of that. I ask that this provision is included in the Bill to ensure the best standards are maintained and monitored.

I second Senator Terry's amendment. A similar discussion took place in considering the Veterinary Practice Bill 2004. The Government put forward a stipulation that the premises upon which veterinary practice was to occur be certified, and that the original certificate be displayed. On this side of the Seanad it was suggested that a copy might suffice because of what can happen to important documentation. If an issue is to be made of certification, and if original certificates are already displayed in a veterinary practice, the least that can be done is to ensure certificates describing public premises as being in compliance with legislation be displayed.

I agree with this sentiment, as part of Part M of the building controls is probably one of the most abused. It has existed for some time but a lack of adherence to it is evident. The Minister of State gave a reasonable answer to this on Committee Stage when he stated that the Government was introducing a building control Bill in the future. I agree also with his statement that local building control authorities, rather than individuals, should monitor individual sectors. Overall, I support Senator Terry's assertion that compliance with Part M must be monitored, as do all aspects of the Disability Bill in future. Everybody should in their own way ensure that all aspects of this Bill, more so than other Bills considered in the past, are monitored and delivered.

I echo Senator Kett's statement. I have some questions for the Minister. Senator Terry spoke about access to railway stations. Great effort has been made at some stations around the country to make them accessible to people with disabilities. Can the Minister of State report how long CIE has to get the stations updated in this regard, not just with buses and trains but with its railway stations as well? Is there a timespan over which it must get the premises in order?

Ten years is a long time for someone in a wheelchair.

The timescale has to be progressive.

That would echo what the Minister of State has said about CIE informing people of what it was doing, that stations would be visited, and that the body would testify about what work had been carried out.

Section 25 of the Bill states:

Subject tosubsection (4) and section 29, a public body shall ensure that its public buildings are, as far as practicable, accessible to persons with disabilities.

Section 25(3)(a) of the Bill states:

Buildings, which are public buildings on the commencement of this section or which become public buildings 40 after such commencement, shall be brought into compliance with Part M (unless the building is already required to be so compliant) not later than 31 December 2015.

Amendment No. 22 seeks compliance with Part M of the building regulations through allocation of certificates of compliance by building control officers. Under the Building Control Act 1990, the enforcement of the national building regulations, including Part M, which relates to access for people with disabilities, is vested in local building control authorities. The responsibility is not on individual officers employed by these authorities.

I pointed out on Committee Stage that the Government plans to introduce a building control (amendment) Bill this autumn. The Bill will provide for the introduction of a disability access certificate system, whereby the building control authority will certify that all planned non-domestic buildings and apartment blocks comply with Part M of the building regulations before work commences. This system will apply to a wider range of buildings than the public buildings covered by the proposed amendment to section 25 now under discussion.

I appreciate the Members' expressed concerns as they wish to see the issue dealt with in the Disability Bill rather than waiting for legislation to be enacted. However, this matter is more appropriate to that legislation. The Disability Bill cannot deal with every aspect of policy that will have an impact on people with disabilities. I am confident that the provisions of section 25 are already adequate in respect of the obligations placed on public bodies to make their buildings accessible in accordance with Part M regulations and to further upgrade their buildings where those regulations are amended. There are also provisions for compliance and appeals to the Ombudsman when a body fails to comply with these obligations. These bodies must also adhere to any further obligations arising from the building control Bill.

In addition, the sectoral plan of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will contain information about the measures to be taken to ensure compliance with the building regulations. The draft plan will be subject to consultation with the relevant stakeholders and has already, in recent weeks, been the subject of regional information sessions, which are facilitated by the National Disability Authority. I am satisfied that the matter of certificates and the associated monitoring and inspection processes will be more appropriately dealt with in the building control Bill and therefore it is not necessary to accept the amendment.

I will welcome the building control Bill when it comes before the House. However, Members will be aware of how long it takes for most legislation to pass through the Houses. As far as the issue of making public buildings accessible for people with disabilities is concerned, we should not wait for that to happen. The timeframe of ten years, which would take us to 2015, is far too generous. I do not see how people responsible for any building could take ten years to make it accessible. This is far too lenient and I do not understand the need for such leniency. We need to set down ground rules and timeframes. I would have thought that even a five year period is too lenient. However, the provision of a period of time as long as ten years baffles me.

The Minister of State also mentioned that the Disability Bill cannot cater for every need or aspect of the provision of accessibility or other issues pertaining to people with disabilities. Surely however, in the case of accessibility, we should set the standards and demand the delivery of those standards in a much shorter timeframe. After all, the purpose of the Bill is to bring people with disabilities into the mainstream and putting such questions on the long finger does not deliver a service to people with disabilities. We should do everything we can to speed up that process. My amendment would help to deliver that service and would be in everyone's interest.

We want to reach a stage where people with disabilities can leave their home, gain access to footpaths and public buildings and go about their business. As far as footpaths are concerned, we must also ensure that when someone leaves home in a wheelchair, he or she can reach his or her destination, be it to the local school, church or shop. Such people should be able to travel along footpaths with dished kerbs in place to enable the wheelchair to access every footpath, but that does not happen. If everything is put on the long finger, it will not be done. I regret the line taken by the Minister of State, as he is putting the matter on the long finger and this is not acceptable. I urge him to accept the amendment.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

My vote did not register.

It is too late now.

I voted but it did not register.

The Senator should have notified the tellers to that effect.

I am notifying the Cathaoirleach now.

It is a bit late to bring it to my attention when the result has been announced.

I request a manual vote.

The manual vote will now proceed in accordance with Standing Order 56(A).

Amendment again put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 29.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.

Níl

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hayes, Maurice.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Terry and Tuffy; Níl, Senators Minihan and Moylan.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 23 not moved.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 29, to delete lines 40 to 43 and in page 30, to delete lines 1 to 5 and substitute the following:

"31.—(1) Each Minister of the Government,".

This amendment requires that all Ministers prepare sectoral plans. At present only six Ministers are required to do so. Why should not every Minister prepare such a plan? The idea is that there should be mainstreaming of disability issues throughout every Department. Even the preparation of sectoral plans does not go far enough. At the very least every Department should have to prepare such a plan.

The ultimate aim of Departments should be to include people with disabilities from the outset and every penny of Government expenditure should be inclusive so that disability is not an add-on. One way to do that is to ensure different Departments have comprehensive disability proofing. While a sectoral plan is a step in the right direction, it does not go as far as the disability groups would wish, particularly those who have withdrawn from the DLCG but also those groups still within that process are not happy. The sectoral plan requirements are vague and do not go far enough. The disability groups feel strongly that every Department should have to prepare such a plan.

I second the amendment. It is very important for every Department to prepare a sectoral plan to ensure we have disability proofing across the board. While the Bill will oblige most Departments to provide sectoral plans, we want to go one step further. I support what Senator Tuffy said. This requires us to adopt a new mindset. When dealing with legislation every Department and all legislators need to be cognisant of people with disabilities, which will become a matter of course in the same way that we have equality proofing. We need to take the extra step and ensure we disability proof every Bill and regulation proposed and implemented. We need to provide safeguards to ensure we do not do anything that may cause difficulty or present an obstruction for people with disabilities. In time all Departments will incorporate that way of thinking. In the meantime we will need to provide for it to ensure it gets done. This amendment is worthy of acceptance and I hope the Minister of State will do so.

I would not disagree with the sentiments expressed by my two colleagues. If Departments are left out of the loop at this stage, at the very commencement, the mindset that we are trying to engender in Departments might not be forthcoming. Even if those Departments never produced sectoral plans, they should be encouraged to do so. If Departments are not asked to think about disability or to disability proof legislation, they will not do so. The Minister of State made it clear that the six Departments were chosen as their policies have a greater impact than those of other Departments, with which I agree with one slight exception. In a different way, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities as it has shown with its legislation to date in the area of equality.

I support the amendment, as it is a very good way to monitor the mainstreaming of the legislation.

When we met Mr. Dolan of the Disability Federation——

It is not necessary for the Senator to refer to people whom she has met.

The responsibility should be covered in the legislation. Some €38 billion is spent each year on infrastructure in the country and generally the disabled are excluded from this Government expenditure. The head of the Disability Federation of Ireland drew our attention to those who are now disabled and who will become disabled in the future, which I had not fully considered. Now that we are living longer the chances are that all of us will become in some way disabled with, for example, rheumatism and arthritis. Not only is this provision required in legislation, but also the Secretary General and Minister of each Department need to ensure that any money spent includes people who are disabled.

I believe that each Department should be included. When the Bill is enacted factors will emerge that belong to other Departments. Departments change name and become merged and segregated. The cleanest approach is to require every Minister to report a sectoral plan, which will ensure they understand it is also their business and not just the business of the Ministers responsible for transport, education and health.

I will respond to the last point made. Each Minister does not have a sectoral plan as the sectoral plans only apply to the six major Departments with a need for a plan owing to the massive amount of work to be done. In response to what Senator Terry said before the division, that work will be done on a year-on-year basis up to a maximum of ten years. It is not a question of putting it on the long finger. Other Departments are covered in another section of the Bill, which requires them to have their plans in place by the end of December 2005.

Does this apply to the Departments that have no plans now?

The ones without plans must have their provisions in place to comply with the Bill by the end of this year, which means they have no need to have a plan. For example, the Department of the Taoiseach does not need a sectoral plan because that Department has little to do in this area when compared with the Department of Transport or the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Six sectoral plans will cover the planning to be carried out by the six major Departments that need to spend hundreds of millions of euro in the next ten years in adapting buildings and facilities.

Earlier Senator O'Rourke asked about Bus Éireann. It needs to carry out that work which is already in progress. The Senator was very proactive in this area when she was the Minister responsible for semi-State bodies. Over a ten-year period they will be required to become fully accessible to disabled people.

I do not accept the point made by Senator White that of the €38 billion to be spent, no account is taken of people with disabilities. Under the building regulations and the existing protocols all Government expenditure is subject to controls requiring it to be disability friendly.

Are the regulations being implemented?

The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

By and large they are being implemented. Part M of the building regulations ensures that all new buildings funded from new moneys are——

The regulations are being broken.

With due respect, it is very unfair to make such comments. A strong set of regulations for new buildings and developments exist and are being adhered to. If the Senator has examples where this is not happening with new expenditure, I would like to hear them. I ask the Senator to inform me of projects involving Government expenditure in which the planning laws on disability are not being adhered to.

The Minister of State said other Ministers are required to come back by the end of the year.

Senator O'Rourke has spoken already and should allow the Minister of State to reply.

Sections 25 to 29 impose significant obligations on the six Departments, which, among other matters, must make all their services accessible to people with disabilities. Significant costs and resources cross a wide range of bodies are involved. The main cost for the six Departments is the cost of retrofitting and making changes. This applies to agencies such as Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, etc. It is not necessary to include the other Departments, as the amendment proposes, as all other Ministers must deliver their responsibilities under sections 26 to 29 by the end of the year. For these reasons I do not propose to accept the amendment. This is because all other Ministers must deliver their responsibilities under sections 26 to 29 by the end of the year. For those reasons I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Sections 26 to 29 apply to all Departments also mentioned in section 31. If what the Minister of State is saying is true, why would he need to name six Departments? He states that it is anticipated in the legislation that they will spend so many millions or euro and that proof of expenditure is needed. That should surely apply to all other Departments as well.

This is not concerned only with access to buildings. The provisions in sections 26 to 29 have a general application. It is not as they have application to all other Departments while section 31 has application to specific ones. As I understand it, sections 26 to 29 applies to everyone, but section 31 applies only to six Departments which have a special onus to have a sectoral plan under the provisions. I do not see the big deal in including all the other Departments. It means that a similar onus will be placed on them.

Senator Kitt pointed out to me that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not included. Of all Departments it should have been included as this is where the legislation is originating. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform covers such a broad area and surely these sections should cover it.

Similarly, I do not understand the logic for not including the Department of Education and Science. The Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003 is of very limited application. It covers primary and secondary education, but it does not cover further education, lifelong learning and so on. Nor does it cover the other things covered by the Department of Education and Science, such as services provided to the public. I cannot understand why that is not included.

The way to go about this is to have every Department draw up some kind of plan. Every cent spent by the Government should be proofed for disability from the outset. It represents good value for money to do it that way. It is like spending money on gender equality. We should not be spending money first and examining it later to see how we are dealing with women, or the elderly or whatever. I urge the Minister to change his mind.

There are six Departments with plans because it is necessary for those Departments to plan for the short, medium and long term action they will take. This is because there are very significant amounts of work that they all must carry out. The other Departments are covered and they must complete their work by December 2005, which is covered in sections 26 to 29. We wanted to focus on the big Departments which must put plans in place because of the fact that there is a very significant amount of work to be done by them or the agencies under their area. The Department of Education and Science is covered under the Education Act, so it is not necessary to cover it here.

I do not agree with that.

If it was necessary to have plans for the other Departments, there would have been no difficulty in having them. However, it is not necessary because they will be obliged, once the Bill is passed, to put in place all of the requirements expected of them in the Bill by the end of this year.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 17.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hayes, Maurice.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • O’Meara, Kathleen.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Terry and Tuffy.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are cognate to amendment No. 25 and they will be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 25:
In page 31, line 2, to delete "Dáil Éireann" and substitute "each House of the Oireachtas".

I thank the Senators for bringing this important matter to my attention on Committee Stage. I am happy to agree with the suggested amendment by Senator Quinn and Senator Henry to remove "Dáil Éireann" from section 31(6) and replace it with "each House of the Oireachtas". Government amendments Nos. 25 and 27 will also ensure that section 31(6), which refers to the laying of sectoral plans before Dáil Éireann and the commencement of section 31, is subject to the passing of a resolution by both Houses approving the plan.

Senator Quinn, who asked me to move his amendment, was the person who spotted this omission. I regret to say I did not, but I am delighted we were able to advise the Government on it.

I also thank the Minister of State for bringing forward this amendment. As was stated on Committee Stage, it is only right and proper that the work of this House should be recognised in legislation. The omission is probably due to an oversight or the taking for granted of this House and it is right that the amended wording would be included. I thank the Minister of State for doing this.

Let the call go out loud and clear from this House that it was a big mistake to state that the sectoral plan should be laid before the Dáil. Senator Quinn discovered this omission some years ago. I would not be as kind as Senator Terry about it. Those in the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel who formulated the Bill should realise there are two Houses in the Oireachtas and that no Bill can become the law of the land until it has passed through both Houses. It is cavalier of them to have allowed that unconstitutional reference into the Bill. The matter has been corrected by amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 27. Senator Terry always includes reference to both Houses of the Oireachtas in her statements on legislation.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 26:
In page 31, line 5, to delete "Dáil Éireann" and substitute "each House of the Oireachtas".
Amendment agreed to.

Senators Quinn and Henry have also tabled an amendment similar to Government amendment No. 27, which has already been discussed with amendment No. 25.

Government amendment No. 27:
In page 31, in lines 2 and 3 of the text inserted by Government amendment No. 45 at Committee, to delete "Dáil Éireann" and substitute "each House of the Oireachtas".
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 40, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

"(5) The Minister shall, as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before each House of the Oireachtas, a report on the possibility of increasing the public service employment quota for people with disabilities above 3 per cent.".

This amendment calls for a report on the possibility of increasing the public service employment quota for people with disabilities above 3%. On Committee Stage the Minister of State was critical of the fact that I am only asking for a report on the possibility of increasing the quota. The implication is that I should have sought an increase. I am trying to make it as easy as possible for him. I did not think he would accept my amendment if I asked for an increase in the quota. My amendment is very fair in that I am only asking for a report which would examine how the present quota is currently working in each Department from which we could deduce whether the quota should be increased.

I believe we should increase the quota. Some Departments are doing very well in this regard while others are doing very badly. Therefore, a report on this issue would be important. If we cannot get public bodies to employ more people with disabilities, how can we expect the private sector to do so? It is an enormous help to disabled people to provide them with employment. It is well known that people with disabilities who are unemployed are at a greater risk of living in poverty than able-bodied unemployed people. It is vitally important that we do everything we can to facilitate people with disabilities to get into the workforce. Many people with disabilities face obstacles to getting into the workforce but once they are employed they have a significant contribution to make. Many of them are capable of working alongside able-bodied persons, which is an advantage to everybody in the workforce.

It is time we raised the quota of 3% which has been in place for a number of years so as to facilitate more disabled people to get into the workforce. My amendment does not even go that far, it merely asks the Minister to draw up a report on the possibility of increasing the quota. That report would facilitate all of us in terms of how well the system is working. Perhaps the Minister of State would be able to provide us with the percentages of disabled people currently working in each Department. In that way we would be able to see how well or how badly Departments are faring in this regard. We know that some of them are doing badly and that is not acceptable.

Perhaps the Minister of State could also inform me if a timeframe is set for each Department to reach the quota. In the absence of one they would never achieve it. The setting of targets in legislation is a point I have stressed in regard to many amendments today. If there is no onus on people to comply, they will not do so. It is an opt out, a cop-out. My amendment is very fair and does not ask a lot of the Minister of State. It does not require him to increase the quota but to provide a report on the possibility of doing so. I hope he will accept it.

I am not sure how I feel about quotas. As was stated on Committee Stage, if one sets a quota Departments might sit on their hands when they reach it and do nothing else. I would rather change mindsets before changing quotas. However, I take the point that one could consider changing them.

Given the changes that will result from this legislation, more and more people will be able to gain access to employment, be it through changes to the working environment or otherwise. It may be that quotas will go through the roof as a result, provided that the right types of disabled people are coming on stream looking for jobs.

Do the quotas that will be specified fall under the new or old definition of disability? The Minister of State will answer this. Under the new definition, the quotas may not stand up.

On employing people with disability, I hope that when the new regime commences, people with disability will get meaningful jobs rather than jobs created for the sake of creating them. I said this last week. Senator O'Meara referred to a report that stated people with disability are twice as likely to be poverty-stricken as able-bodied people. It is probably even more likely when a disabled person is head of a household. Given that we have so much modern technology enabling and assisting people with disabilities, they will find themselves in more meaningful jobs, thus affording them a greater sense of self-worth and all this brings with it.

Parents need to be realistic about the abilities of their adult children who are presenting themselves for jobs. I have noted parents who overstate the ability of their children. If this occurs and the applicant does not get the job for which he or she applies, it can be very hurtful. It can be demeaning in that he or she will deem himself or herself a failure. Parents need to be careful that they do not set out their child's stall to such an extent that they over-value their ability when applying for a job. One should bear in mind that not all technology will assist such applicants to the extent that it will assist them in years to come, be their disabilities associated with hand movement or otherwise. Heartache can be caused for a young adult seeking employment in this regard. A balance should be struck.

I wish the Minister would accept this amendment as it opens the door further. I take the point that a Department may not take further action in this area if a Secretary General, for example, says the quota of 3% has been reached. Senator Feeney called for a report into whether further action could be taken. Of course Departments could do more. In a Department with a staff of 300 or 400, a quota of 3% is very small. It could easily be increased and this should be done.

On Committee Stage we were saying Senator Terry is a lady although she did not want this term to be used and called herself a woman — a fine woman, a decent woman. We said she had not been forceful in making the case for her amendment. The amendment would require the Secretary General or Minister to make a report on the possibility of increasing the quota such that, on its being reached, he or she could identify that seven or ten more disabled people, for example, could be taken on. The report would trigger the taking on of these staff. I hope the Minister of State will accept the amendment.

While I support the amendment, there is much merit in what Senator Kett had to say on the issue. In general, I would not be one to advocate quotas. Senator Terry is suggesting that a report, if produced, should involve reviewing whether the quota system is working and identifying how it could be improved, whether it should exist in the first place and whether the quota itself should be increased. In making the report one would consider how various public bodies implement quota systems. South Dublin County Council won an award this year for the way in which it approached this issue. The report would compare this council to other public bodies and Departments.

As Senator Terry stated, the amendment does not require the Minister to increase the quota or otherwise. It simply stipulates that a report should be produced on whether it should be increased. This is a good idea.

I, too, support the amendment. One could not put the case for it better than the Leader of the House has done.

The 3% employment quota has been in place on an administrative basis for many years. I would be the first to acknowledge that there has been considerable variation in the performance of various Departments and public bodies regarding the target. It has received specific attention in a number of the national wages agreements. Sustaining Progress captures the essential point in that it refers to the target as having a key role in creating employment opportunities for those with disabilities that might not otherwise be available.

In Part 5, careful attention was paid to the views of social partners and those in public bodies who have direct experience of operating the present arrangements. Amendment No. 28 would require the Minister to lay a report before the Oireachtas, as soon as may be after the passing of the Bill, on the possibility of increasing the public service target employment level above the current 3%.

I noted the concern Senators expressed on Committee Stage that there should be an impetus for continuing improvement beyond the 3% target. I shared this view. Senators may have overlooked some of the key provisions in this regard which were already contained in Part 5, specifically in sections 47, 49 and 50. Section 47(4) gives statutory effect to the 3% target on a baseline requirement, meaning the target must be at least 3%. This is not to say Departments cannot exceed it. They are encouraged to do so.

Section 47(3) allows the Minister to set compliance targets for recruitment as well as employment levels and related matters. The measures include special recruitment competitions and the filling of specialist categories of vacancies. Provision was also included by a Dáil amendment for work experience placements. I emphasise that the 3% target is a baseline. It will put the onus on Departments to give opportunities for training and work experience to people with disabilities. I was anxious to raise the 3% quota but recognised the practical difficulties associated with doing so and then agreed we should proceed on the basis of providing the extra training and work experience places.

Section 47 provides for a much broader range of measures than the existing target. Of particular importance is the emphasis on recruitment, which has been identified as a key element in demonstrating continued commitment by public bodies to employing people with disabilities. The approach is based on the existence of monitoring the present arrangements, including important input from the social partners. I note such a report is not a feature of the proposed amendment.

Section 49 refers to the enforcement of compliance targets. Each Minister, in co-operation with the NDA, will have responsibility for monitoring his or her sector of the public service. Public bodies will be specifically obliged to implement compliance measures specified by the NDA under section 49(2).

Section 50 covers the very important overall reporting procedures. These allow the NDA to report on all aspects of compliance, including the numbers employed. It will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in such a way that, if necessary, bodies that are not fulfilling their obligations can be publicly identified. The approach is similar to the Ombudsman procedures which operate so effectively in other areas.

The report by the NDA can cover all issues regarding the 3% target. It will be an annual report, therefore, monitoring the performance of various Departments will be constant. It is clear that Part 5 generally expands the range of measures to support employment of people with disabilities beyond the present 3% target arrangements. It is the product of experience and of the input of relevant stakeholders including the social partners. Overall monitoring through the NDA will facilitate ongoing review of progress and will allow for a much more comprehensive approach than that proposed in the amendment. That is the important point, that the Bill provides for an ongoing review procedure, whereas the amendment calls for a once-off report. It would considerably narrow the focus of Part 5 and reduce the impetus of future positive actions. Therefore I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I wish to refer to the question put by Senator O'Rourke on Committee Stage regarding the actual percentages. While there is a significant number of bodies which have not yet reached the 3% target——

I will bet.

——many of them have. The variable progress is due to a number of factors, including the problems with disclosure of personal information, differences in recording procedures within public bodies and the lack of acceptance by some bodies of their responsibilities in this area. It is clear from recent research that a change in the approach to recording and a broader range of positive action measures are needed. Part 5 will provide such an approach. The Department of Finance monitors compliance. The last official figures for employment in the relevant bodies in 2002 was 2.78%. However, the Department of Finance has been involved in intensive research and consultation with stakeholders to improve the systems for reporting as well as the practical measures that may be taken to support employment of people with disabilities.

I have before me additional statistics which relate to other public bodies outside the Civil Service. These bodies are monitored by a committee chaired by my Department which includes the social partners and people with disabilities. Latest figures available show that at 1 January 2005, the achievement rate is 3.04%.

Where is that happening?

In other public bodies outside the Civil Service. While returns for all public bodies for 2005 have not yet been received, the outstanding returns, including the local authorities, which have shown good achievement in previous years, show an average rate of 3.5% on 1 January 2004. Therefore, improvements are taking place and we are satisfied that this trend is ongoing. In respect of Departments, the last figures I have are for 2002 when, as I have said, it was 2.78%.

While I accept that a number of measures mentioned by the Minister of State will help to ensure that there is an improved compliance with the quota, I am disappointed that he is not accepting my amendment, which would strengthen the legislation. It is clear to me that we do not have as good a compliance rate as is needed and that this needs to be monitored. That mechanism needs to be in place. It is all very well to set a target and hope that people will comply with it. The local authorities, in general, are doing very well. However, local authorities can always do better and will, I am sure, if they are obliged to. The figure of 2.78% for Departments in 2002 is nothing of which to be proud. I wonder whether that has improved in 2005. We do not know——

We have been without the figures for the last three years.

Three years is a very long time. It is not good enough that more accurate figures could not be provided today. Therefore, this area needs to be tightened up. There is an obligation on the Minister of State to ensure there is compliance and that everything is done to ensure that this figure is met and even surpassed. Those standards should be put in place. I am not happy with section 47, which provides that a public body shall, "in so far as practicable take all reasonable measures to promote and support the employment by it of persons with disabilities". How vague is that? First, it has to be "practicable" and then "reasonable measures" must be taken. That is written in such a way as to make it easy for somebody to say, "it is impracticable for us to employ people with disabilities".

Hear, hear.

As for what is termed "reasonable measures", these will fall very short of what is absolutely necessary. The wording here is extremely weak.

Again, in section 47, subsections (2) and (3), it is down to the Minister for Finance and various other Ministers to give their consent as to whether or not they should specify compliance targets relating to the recruitment and employment of persons with disabilities. These need to be set down.

I also do not like quotas but, unfortunately, that is the way we have to address this issue. if the 3% quota was not set down years ago, there would probably be far fewer people with disabilities working today. However, where we are starting from a very low base, it is necessary to have quotas. It is time to move on, nonetheless, and to go beyond the 3% quota. We need to monitor this area much more carefully and there is an onus on us all to improve on the current quota and monitor compliance. I again ask the Minister of State to accept my amendment.

I do not have anything to add. I am absolutely satisfied that all of the points made by the Senator are covered in the reporting mechanisms which will be ongoing. This issue was debated at great length at an official level across all Departments and it was felt that it should be a statutory requirement, as outlined in the Bill, to ensure that people with disabilities were given adequate opportunities for employment in the public service.

Probably the most important amendment, which is being completely overlooked, is that there is no ceiling on the numbers of people that may be taken on by public bodies or Departments as part of their training and job experience programmes. This highly significant amendment will ensure that Departments, semi-State agencies and local authorities will be obliged to take on people for training and work experience who can then move on to work in the private sector. I am completely satisfied that the Bill provides adequately for their employment requirements.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 28.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.

Níl

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hayes, Maurice.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Terry and Tuffy; Níl, Senators Minihan and Moylan.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment No. 29:
In page 49, line 15, after "person" to insert "as well as the body corporate".

This is a technical amendment to correct the offences provision in section 54. It clarifies that bodies corporate as well as specified individuals will be guilty of an offence and liable to prosecution, as appropriate.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

We intend to call a vote on this question.

If that is the case, when will we have an opportunity to thank the Minister of State?

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 16.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Hayes, Maurice.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Walsh, Kate.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Terry, Sheila.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators Terry and Tuffy.

I ask the Leader to move the suspension.

Members who participated in the debate on the Bill wish to speak to the Minister of State.

I thank the Minister of State for giving of his time and staying with the House throughout the debate on this important Bill. I also want to thank members of his staff who were in the House throughout the full debate.

This has been a long-awaited Bill and much debate has taken place around it. I accept this Disability Bill is better than the earlier one. Several improvements have been made to help bring it about. It must also be recognised that it has several failings which have led to several groups leaving the Disability Legislation Consultation Group. Several disability organisations are also dissatisfied with the Bill, despite all the consultation that took place. It is unfortunate that many people are still unhappy. I concur with their disappointment in that they feel this Bill does not go far enough. While I accept it is a large improvement on the previous Bill, there are still many gaps and flaws in this Bill.

The largest flaw is around the issue of funding. I accept multiannual funding is in place. However, should the economy deteriorate, people with disabilities will not get the services they require. Indeed, over the coming years many people will not get the services envisaged for them in the Bill. This is because the administrative framework will not be in place, nor the specialists, such as speech therapists, that are needed to deliver the services. I urge the Minister of State to ensure that the services are delivered as quickly as possible and that funding is provided to ensure that happens.

My other concern is with unmet needs and the prioritising of services in that area, which has to be addressed as quickly as possible. This legislation will only be as good as the services it provides to meet the needs of people. Funding is essential for this purpose. The core objective of the Bill is to mainstream people with disabilities, to assist a person with a disability to live as normal a life as possible. In the future we will strive for full equality in so far as that is possible, though we all have limitations, including each of us here. While this legislation will not achieve it, we want in the future to deliver freedom for people with disabilities and to provide them with the right to the services they need.

I ask the Minister of State to do all in his power to implement the administrative framework within the set timeframe so that the services and products are delivered as quickly as possible. I would like to see the accessibility issue fast-tracked to ensure people can get around more easily and without restrictions.

While I welcome this legislation I hope we will in the future be able to make improvements to it because they are necessary. I hope we monitor its progress and I look forward to doing so over the coming years. There is also an onus on all of us who have been involved in the passage of the Bill to make sure we monitor the legislation closely to ensure that compliance will be enforced. I look forward to the implementation of the Bill when it is finally passed.

I thank the Minister of State for the constructive way he conducted the debate in the House. He and his officials have ensured that the Bill is much improved on the Bill that was brought forward some years ago. As Senator Terry said, we hope any improvements which should be made will be made and, even more importantly, that all resources that are needed for the implementation of the legislation are made available by Government.

I thank the Minister of State and his staff. The legislation going through today is significant and contains much that is good. A great deal of work has been put into it by allconcerned, including the Minister of State's officials, people involved in the consultation process and those involved in drafting it.

However, as we have said all along, the legislation does not go far enough. It is based on the mindset that disability is separate, an afterthought, rather than on the premise put forward by the disability sector that disabled people have the same right to participate in society as anybody else. Inclusivity is the starting point and should be the focus of every cent spent on the issue.

Both those in the DLCG and those who have left the group are unhappy that there are five issues that have not been addressed. These are that rights should not be resource dependent, that there should be assessable timeframes for meeting people's needs, that funds should be ringfenced, that every Department should be involved in disability-proofing and that this disability-proofing should be embedded in the system.

The Minister of State did not respond to the suggestion that there should be a disability commissioner. It is a good idea and I hope he will consider it in the future, perhaps in further legislation. The Ombudsman might have a brief in this regard but it would be a good initiative to have a separate person who would represent people under this legislation, overseeing the whole system but also dealing with questions of whether individual rights had been met.

The right to appeal the contents of an assessment is a key omission from the Bill and I do not understand the reason it was not included. The right to an assessment is the most fundamental aspect of the legislation. However, many people will be unhappy with their assessment and, as Senator Terry has said, ultimately there should be a right to appeal to court as an appeal of last resort.

The legislation should be about mainstreaming the rights of people with disabilities. It is does not achieve that but it is a step in the right direction. I hope it is monitored over time and that additional legislation will be brought forward to further extend people's rights.

I also thank the Minister of State and his officials for their great assistance over the past two weeks. They have enlightened my views as we progressed. I particularly commend the Minister of State for the energy he has brought to the issue even though he arrived to the process a little later than the rest of us. His commitment to people with disability, which I believe is genuine, is encouraging for somebody like myself who works in the area.

It is a significant day for people with disabilities because it is the culmination of many fine pieces of legislation which have been enacted in the life of this Government to bring about a better life for people with disabilities. It proves the Government's commitment to its programme of action to reinforce the participation of people with disabilities in our society. That becomes a reality today. Aspirations that were held by people with disabilities will become more and more attainable. Such people who want to live independently or set targets for themselves each day will now have a much greater possibility of doing so.

However, this legislation will bring about a much greater facility for such people to do this. Others must be commended for it. The Taoiseach has been a great driving force, as have the Ministers associated with it. We cannot forget the DLCG and, in particular, the DFI. It is somewhat sad that today as the Bill is finalised, a number of disability sectors are not on board. Hopefully, as they see the progress and abilities of the Bill, they will reflect and conclude that we were correct and they were wrong to step away from it.

Senator Terry has stated that we must ensure the Bill's effectiveness and this is critical to our business today. If we sit on our hands and do not monitor the Bill's effectiveness, it will not be as effective as it otherwise might be, as has happened in other cases. Whenever it is necessary, I will be on my feet to set out my stall regarding matters which I feel should have, but have not, happened by a given time. The effective monitoring of this Bill by Members will be important.

If I had a concern, it would be with the progress of the sectoral plans. This has nothing to do with the legislation but concerns the mindset of people who might be the driving force behind them. I will stand corrected if my doubts are unfounded as I hope they are. I believe this will be the case because today, people within Government circles and politicians in general must think differently about people with disabilities. Consequently, a new dawn has developed in our thinking and mindset in this regard. I extend my congratulations and thanks to all concerned.

I also thank the Minister of State for coming before the House and remaining for all the sessions here. I also thank his officials, Ms Siobhan Barron and Mr. Brendan Sheehy who were present and listened to the debate throughout. I agree with Senator Terry that the Bill now differs from that which was originally presented in this House because the Minister of State, in meeting the DFI and the Taoiseach, has worked through many significant amendments which will make a great change in the Bill.

Some points struck me as Members discussed the Bill. For me, the implementation of this Bill has been a personal crusade stemming from circumstances in the wider Lenihan family and was a particular matter which I wished to fulfil. I was glad to be present to do so. As I stated at the beginning, people with disabilities can come out of the shadows and into the sunlight, which is so important in so many ways. Many did not get the chance to do so. They were unable to do so because of circumstances and because the services did not then exist for such people as they do now, even before the passing of this Bill. I welcome this and for me, our debate on the subject was shot through with deep memories. Even if the sunlight is weak in the beginning, there will be good days for those who are able to walk in the sunlight, hopefully with better to come.

Make no mistake, but this will depend on resources. I do not know how it will be monitored and fulfilled and the question of money ran through the entire debate. We must ensure the funds are ring-fenced no matter how tight money becomes, even if there are earthquakes in the country morning, noon and night — which there will not be. This is why I wanted a subhead for money for disabilities in each sector, which could not be touched. No matter what happens, the able-bodied will always be able to look after themselves. However, I was keen on the creation of a subhead, entitled something like "cash for disabilities" which would ring-fence the funds. I was also keen on the idea of the commission, where a man or woman would don the mantle of champion if the going became rocky for the provision of services. It would have been tied to the disability proofing idea, which would have been secured if the subhead with the money ring-fenced in it had been accepted. I do not know how we will act on Senator Kett's suggestion to monitor progress, but we must.

Disabled citizens are entitled to full access and usage of all services. That is the manner in which disabled citizens should be able to order their lives henceforth. I thank the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the Acting Chairmen who sat in the House as well as the Clerk of the Seanad. We sometimes overlook the work involved in the arrangement and compilation of amendments. I also thank Senators Terry, Tuffy and Henry, all of whom gave their time so unstintingly to this particular Bill.

Hear, hear.

They did so without any suggestion of thinking "oh the Bill again". They remained present and went about their business. I also thank my colleague, Senator Kett, who works in the area and who provided me with much wisdom. Sometimes, if I became bolder than I should, he stayed my hand. Everyone who participated in this Bill and stuck with it throughout the debate has done the State a great service.

This is a landmark day in the history of the legislation produced by the Oireachtas. I compliment the Minister of State, his staff and everyone who brought this extraordinary legislation together including Members such as Senator Kett, who worked at it on a daily basis, Senator O'Rourke and Senators Terry and Tuffy, who put their hearts and souls into it.

Undoubtedly, people who are disabled were cruelly discriminated against. The same can honestly be stated about women, who were discriminated against when they were obliged to give up their jobs in the public service. When one has experienced discrimination oneself, one is more sensitive to others who are discriminated against.

The main point is that people who are disabled will be able to reach their potential, get a job and fully participate in society. It is forgotten that people do not only work for economic reasons but also for social reasons. I know from my experience as an employer that for people who have been excluded previously, socialisation is a major aspect of having a job. One meets people every day and socialises. From that point of view, as an employer, I feel that one of the major achievements of this Bill will be to help disabled people who have been discriminated against in the past to reach their potential, to fully participate in society and to feel they contribute to society.

I thank Members for the lively and interesting contributions they made to the debate on this important Bill. In particular, I thank the Opposition spokespersons who, as has been stated, put an enormous amount of work into this legislation. The legislation was complex and without having the significant backup which I enjoy as Minister of State, each of the Opposition spokespersons did an exceptionally good job. I thank them for the positive contribution they made to the Bill's improvement. I also thank Members on the Government side who have in no small way contributed to the Bill, particularly Senator Kett, who, as Senator O'Rourke noted, is involved in this area and is knowledgeable about it.

I was glad to be able to make further Government amendments to the Bill and to accept some of the amendments put forward in this House and in the Dáil. Many changes were sought by the DLCG and we listened carefully to this group. While we were unable to agree to everything suggested by the group, we have tried to include as many of its requirements as possible.

I regret that we lost three members of the DLCG when the Bill reached Committee Stage in the Dáil but I thank them for their active involvement in and contribution to the process. In particular, I thank the remaining four groups of the DLCG and hope they will continue to work with the Government. They met the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children this morning and had a very positive meeting. They will have further meetings with the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Finance. I intend to ensure dialogue continues so the rolling out of the regulations and standards will be the subject of ongoing discussions with the disability sector.

A number of changes are reflected in the Bill. The requirement that the liaison officer meet the applicant is a good change which reinforces the person-centred approach. Senator Terry tabled an amendment to insert a three-month timescale for completion into section 9 and I promised to consult the Parliamentary Counsel in regard to the regulation provisions in section 21. Section 21(a)(ii) allows for different periods for carrying out assessments and reviews in respect of different age groups and categories of disability. I have been assured this would adequately cover urgent cases which Senator Terry mentioned, particularly conditions warranting urgent response because of the age of the individual.

The amendment allowing for a complaint officer to specify timing of delivery of his or her actions will ensure the applicant will not have to go back to the end of the queue for assessments and services is an important one to which we agreed. The amendment requiring the report of the Health Service Executive to include additional information in regard to numbers receiving and awaiting assessments, numbers and profiles of applicants not receiving all their assessment needs and the requirement that the report be published annually is an important one which will enable a comprehensive analysis of areas of unmet need to inform future planning of services. I thank Senators for tabling that amendment.

Expanding the provisions in regard to the sectoral plan of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is entirely appropriate. There is a requirement on the six sectoral plan Departments to produce a report on progress made in delivering the measures in their plans not later than once every three years and to lay the report before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2001 have been further amended so that access rules would include auto description as a means of making audiovisual programmes accessible to persons who are blind and partially sighted. These changes enhance the provisions and the positive action focus which is central to the measures contained in the Bill.

Obviously, it was not possible to deliver all the changes sought by the DLCG but I can honestly say that I have learned much from the debates and consultations and many of the contributions are evident in the improved Bill. Without a doubt it is one of the most complex Bills which has ever come before the Oireachtas. It is cross-cutting legislation involving many Departments. The national disability strategy and the guarantee of additional funding for high-priority areas and services over the five-year multi-annual programme is a significant step towards achieving a better deal for people with disability. It is important not to look at the strategy in isolation but as a further progression of what has been achieved to date.

This is among the most advanced states in Europe in terms of anti-discrimination legislation. Our equality legislation covers disability among other grounds in regard to employment, vocational training and the provision of goods and services. We have structures in place to support the promotion and implementation of rights, namely, the Equality Tribunal and the Equality Authority. The National Disability Authority is active in supporting the development of standards in services and programmes for people with disability and related research.

Even where we have disagreed on proposed amendments, it has been clear that we agree on certain general principles. For example, I agree with Senator Terry on ensuring timely assessments for urgent cases. On the review of the operation of the Bill, we are of similar minds. On the definition of "disability", we have improved the Bill considerably from the way it was first published. On the essential point about the Disability Bill fulfilling a commitment to people with disability contained in An Agreed Programme for Government, in line with that commitment, it includes provisions for rights to assessment, appeals, provision and enforcement.

The Seanad contributed significantly to this Bill. It is good legislation but I suppose it is only as good as its implementation. I take this opportunity to thank the staff of my Department. In my 23 years in the Oireachtas I have not seen departmental staff work as diligently on any legislation given the necessity to incorporate the work of 11 Departments. I take this opportunity to thank all the staff and Ann Doyle, who is not here today, in the section of the Department who have contributed so significantly to this Bill.

As I said, the Bill is as good as its implementation. I have met many people with disability since I took over this job last September. I concur with the views expressed by Senators from all parties that resources will be the key factor in determining how successful this legislation will be. There is no doubt that there are serious gaps in resource provision for people with disability. I have come across a number of cases in the past eight months when I have met parents of young children with severe and profound disability who are not getting the services they desire. As a society we have no option but to provide the resources required so that we can meet the needs of those people. It is my wish that this Government will commit to provide the significant resources which will be required over and above what the Minister for Finance has provided in the multi-annual programme. The Minister for Finance's heart is in the right place and he proved that as Minister for Health and Children and again in the last budget.

Equally important, in terms of extra money, is the need for fundamental reform in the way in which disability provision happens. It grew up on anad hoc basis and was provided by the churches and by voluntary bodies at a time when the State turned its head the other way. As a result, we now need to start with a clean slate. Significant restructuring of the way services are provided is needed. There is unbelievable waste in some sectors of disability provision. There is inappropriate placement. It costs €900,000 per annum to look after one person because of his challenging behaviour. That is not acceptable. There is a better way and we must find it.

The combination of changing structures, rationalisation and putting in place better service delivery so that we can cut out inappropriate expenditure is as important as the need to provide the significant extra resources required to fulfil the considerable requirements and obligations set out in this Bill. Having brought the Bill through both Houses of the Oireachtas, I hope we will see those resources being put in place sooner rather than later. I thank the Acting Chairman and his staff for the successful passage of the Bill.

Question declared carried.