Message to Dáil

In accordance with Standing Order 90, the following message will be sent to the Dáil:

The Select Committee on Justice and Equality has completed its consideration of the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 and has made amendments thereto.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for attending. The committee is very pleased that it has had a number of representatives of disability organisations in the Visitors Gallery throughout Committee Stage of the Bill. They are all welcome and I hope they found the proceedings interesting. We hope that, in joining with them, we can wish the Bill a fair wind in the taking of Report and Final Stages at the earliest possible date. I hope the Minister of State can take that request on board. As a committee, we certainly do not wish to see any delay in the Bill's progress.

In the Minister of State's delivery of his speaking note, as circulated, he jumped a page.

Did the Minister of State intend to do so?

In his closing remarks the Minister of State might make some reference to the optional protocol and its ratification which is eagerly awaited. It is referred to in his script. I am anxious to hear his additional assurances in that regard.

I appeal to the Minister of State to consider the amendment tabled by Deputy Ó Laoghaire that was not proceeded with. The Deputy has reserved the right to resubmit it on Report Stage. It proposes that the Title to the Bill be changed to "Equality/Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016". There is a very strong opinion across the committee on the dropping of the word "Equality". The matter has been referred to and reflected on on a number of occasions. I urge the Minister of State to consider it before Report Stage.

On the amendments that were indicated as being out of order and on which I ruled accordingly, I was left in what I believed was an invidious position. Considering that the Minister of State indicated correctly during the deliberations his comfort, understanding and support, in some instances, and that Opposition Members are sometimes precluded from moving amendments that "may" entail an increase in the charge on the Exchequer, he might consider taking on board some of the amendments proposed on Report Stage. This merits consideration in a number of cases. The greatest number of the amendments were authored initially by the various umbrella representative groups in the disability community.

Does the Minister of State have closing words he would like to offer?

There are further amendments to the Bill that I intend to introduce on Report Stage. They are being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I intend to introduce an amendment to address the issue that arose regarding a person whose fitness to be tried was to be determined in the course of criminal proceedings.

I thank colleagues for their contributions. I welcome the visitors in the Visitors Gallery and thank them for their submissions on the Bill. They will have seen the interaction in the debate. They can see that we have a Chairman and members who are dedicated to the principles behind legislating for disability issues. We now have a different vision in the country than in the past. We want people to be treated with respect, which is why all of the Deputies supported me when I went to New York to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As colleagues said, it is all very well to talk about having a vision and a plan, but we need to ensure we have the resources. That is also important and part of the debate. In budget 2019 I managed to deliver €1.9 billion for social care services for people with disabilities. What that means in real terms is that there will be 8,568 residential places, 20,000 people in day places and 10,000 accessing 4.7 million personal assistance hours and home care packages. The work has begun, but we have a lot to do. In two weeks in County Meath I will be opening the twelfth respite care house to have been opened in the past 12 months. There is ongoing work, but it is absolutely the case that we have a lot to do. The committee has supported the ratification of the UN convention which has been a personal commitment of mine and the Chairman for many years.

I have committed to ratifying the optional protocol on completion of Ireland’s first reporting cycle under the convention. The Government's approach and mine in meeting the terms of the convention is one of sustained and ongoing improvement. Work is continuing on the reforms needed for optimum compliance with the convention's requirements. Progress on this Bill forms a key part of that work. In the early implementation phase it is essential that resources be focused on the improvement and enhancement of services and not diverted into additional areas such as servicing the optional protocol before we are fully ready. Five Government amendments were introduced on Committee Stage. I will deal with the optional protocol as quickly as possible. My focus will be on resourcing the services as quickly as possible. The Irish Deaf Society was mentioned in that regard. Sometimes resourcing services leads to many internal battles about which those in the Visitors Gallery would not hear, but the bottom line is addressing the needs of those with disabilities.

On the equality issue, I have listened to the debate very carefully. I do not want to be distracted by focusing on other areas of equality which I strongly support, as my focus in on disability services. The members and I want to drive the Bill through. I am open to constructive amendments on Report Stage. I have indicated that I will do so.

I thank colleagues and committee staff. I was saying to Pat before the meeting that I had attended many meetings of the committee as a member of the Opposition. Now I am here as Minister of State with responsibility for disability services. I will give one commitment. I came into the job to do three things: reform disability services; invest in those services; and change the mindset to put the person with a disability at the centre of the services. That is my objective and what I will be doing during my term of office, depending on how long the Government lasts.

I believed the Minister of State was going to tell us something seismic, for which we are all waiting.

We might have another year, but Deputy Fitzpatrick has already told us that we will be here until next year.

I thank the Minister of State for his contribution. It is important that the Government create jobs for individuals with a disability. I am aware that its intention is to increase the proportion of people with a disability in the workforce to 6% by 2024, but that is far too long down the road. We have been working very closely with the Minister of State for the past few years.

I thank the Government for funding towards the respite unit in Dundalk for adults with disabilities which was badly needed. This meeting showed that everyone has an interest in people with disabilities. I wish the Minister of State the best for the future.

I thank Deputy Fitzpatrick for his support. Many of us have targets that are higher than 6%.

The select committee adjourned at 10.50 a.m. sine die.