Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (84)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

82 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the promised disability Bill will be published; the discussions he has had with disability groups regarding the terms of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6265/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I assure the Deputy it is my intention, in accordance with the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government, to circulate a disability Bill in some weeks time. Given the complex and cross cutting issues involved, the preparation of the Bill is being overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion.

The disability Bill is a key part of the framework being put in place by the Government to underpin the equal participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The framework includes the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003, which has recently completed Committee Stage; the Comhairle (amendment) Bill, which is being prepared in the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the provision of advocacy and sign language interpretation services; sectoralplans for key public services; and equality legislation.

Following concerns expressed by interest groups, the Government agreed to further consultations about the Disability Bill 2001 and proposals for disability legislation. An expert consultation team was appointed by the Government in April 2002 to oversee the consultation process. The team met and received the views of stakeholders, including the disability legislation consultation team, DLCG, the social partners, the community and voluntary sector and relevant Departments before completing its task in February 2003. These discussions covered a broad range of issues, including assessment of need, related service provision, access to public buildings and services including transport and redress.

As Deputies will be aware, the DLCG is a group representative of people with disabilities, their families, carers and service provider which was brought together by the National Disability Authority, NDA, to facilitate dialogue at national level, both within the sector and with the consultation team. The DLCG presented the document, Equal Citizens — Proposals for Core Elements of Disability Legislation, to the expert consultation team in February 2003.

The Taoiseach and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, who has responsibility for equality and disability issues met the DLCG in mid-July 2003. A further meeting took place between the group and the Taoiseach on 27 November 2003. Separate meetings have also taken place between the DLCG and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley. The discussions at these meetings covered such matters as assessment of need, standards, service provision, the need to build capacity in key sectors of the public service so as to allow provision of disability accessible services in a cost effective way and workable redress mechanisms. The DLCG was assured of the Government's commitment to publish the disability Bill as a matter of priority.

In recent weeks, there have been meetings between the DLCG and officials from my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At these meetings, the DLCG was given an outline of the proposals for legislation and their views about these proposals were discussed and noted for consideration by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. The Cabinet committee and the Government are finalising their deliberations about the Bill, which will be circulated in some weeks time.