I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 to 246, inclusive, together.
The Government’s approach to meeting the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“the Convention”) is one of sustained and on-going improvement. Work is continuing on the reforms needed for an optimum level of compliance with the convention's requirements.
The National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS) 2017 – 2021 contains a wide range of practical commitments to improve the position of people with disabilities. It provides a mechanism for joined-up working to deliver on Ireland’s commitments to implementing the UNCRPD, and the NDIS Steering Group, which oversees and monitors the implementation of the Strategy, will have an important role in guiding progress in this area. The Group is committed to carrying out a mid-term review of the Strategy by the end of 2019 and in the context of this review, it is expected that it will examine how the Strategy is aligned with the articles of the Convention and how the Strategy could be revised and built upon in order to continue progressive realisation of the aims of the Convention. The National Disability Authority (NDA) will also play a critical part in the implementation of the Convention, and will be carrying out a review of progress with respect to the Strategy’s key indicators in this regard.
The Department of Health and the HSE have responsibility for a significant number of actions under the Strategy. The HSE National Service Plan 2019, which was published earlier this year, is focussed on providing supports to people with disabilities and enabling them to maximise their full potential as independently as possible. Measures in the Service Plan will also reduce the waiting times for Assessments of Need for children through the provision of 100 additional therapist posts.
Including the additional funding I secured for use in the Service Plan, this brings the total investment in the provision of disability services to almost €1.9bn in 2019.
Article 19 of the Convention deals with living independently and being included in the community. It provides that persons with disabilities should have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services.
In the 2019 Service Plan, the HSE will provide 1.53m personal assistant hours to 2,535 people, and 3.08m home support hours for 8,094 people.
To meet obligations under Article 12, and Article 7, addressing rights for children with disabilities, additional funding of €12m has been allocated to meet the cost of providing day supports and services for approximately 1,500 young adults who will leave school in 2019. Under the plan, the HSE will move up to 160 people from large institutional settings to homes in the community. Ninety new high-acuity emergency residential places will also be funded in 2019 to address urgent unplanned cases as they arise.
Of particular relevance to Article 12 of the Convention is the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which provides a modern statutory framework to support decision-making by adults with capacity difficulties. The Act was signed into law on 30 December 2015 but has not yet been fully commenced. The 2015 Act will abolish the current Wards of Court system by repealing the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871. Part 6 of the 2015 Act provides that adults currently in wardship will transition to the new decision-making support arrangements provided for in the Act on a phased basis over 3 years from the commencement of Part 6 of the Act.
New administrative processes and support measures, including the setting up of the Decision Support Service within the Mental Health Commission (a body under the Department of Health), must be put in place before the substantive provisions of the 2015 Act can be commenced. The Decision Support Service is working towards being operational and ready for the commencement of the main provisions of the Act in 2020. This lead in timeframe ensures that the necessary staff resources, processes, IT system, expert panels, codes of practice and regulations will be in place so that the Decision Support Service will have the capacity to be up and running effectively. The 2019 Revised Estimates Volume provides for an allocation of €3.5 million in the Justice and Equality Vote for the establishment of the Decision Support Service.
The Government continues to take practical measures to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Report of the Make Work Pay Group was published in April 2017 and many of its recommendations have been implemented. In addition, the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities 2015-2024 includes positive action measures to support the recruitment of people with disabilities in the public service and in the wider economy.
In addition to the practical measures outlined above, the Deputies will be aware of a number of legislative developments to support the implementation of the Convention.
In the first instance, my colleague the Minister for Health is progressing heads of a Bill to provide legislative clarity on the issue of deprivation of liberty. A report of a recent public consultation on these draft legislative provisions is nearing completion, and every effort is being made to progress this legislation as quickly as possible.
The Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016, which contains key legislative amendments needed for compliance with the Convention, was published on December 2016. Second Stage (Dáil) took place on 31 January and 1 February 2017, and Committee Stage on 30 January 2019.
The Bill includes provisions to establish the monitoring framework required by Article 33 of the Convention to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the Convention. It requires the involvement and participation of civil society, in particular, persons with disabilities, in the monitoring process.
The monitoring framework will include both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the National Disability Authority (NDA) and will be governed by a formal Memorandum of Understanding. The IHREC Act 2014 was designed to ensure that IHREC, as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution, fully meets the standard of independence in accordance with the Paris Principles.
The IHREC established a Disability Advisory Committee in January 2019, composed of a diverse group of persons with lived experience of disability. This will ensure the direct participation of persons with disabilities and the organisations representing them in monitoring how the Convention is implemented in Ireland.
The IHREC is best placed to make periodic independent reports to the UN, supported by progress assessments and statistical information supplied by the NDA.
The NDA has expertise and information resources in relation to reporting on disability issues and is carrying out work in a range of areas to support implementation; including the preparation of non-healthcare Codes of Practice under the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015, and review of progress with respect to the key indicators of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy.
Significant year on year budgetary increases in the disability sector have positively impacted the lived experience of people with disabilities in Ireland. However, it is recognised that daily challenges remain for many people with disabilities and their families. Addressing the needs and rights of people living with a disability and their families is a priority for this Government and my primary focus as Minister of State for Disability Issues. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities supports that priority in providing a comprehensive and robust framework for the realisation of those rights.