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Public Appointments Service

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 22 September 2020

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Questions (276)

Neasa Hourigan


276. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his Department has conducted a review of the employment practices and interview processes of the civil service in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24733/20]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland formally ratified this Convention in 2018. Under Article 33 of the UNCRPD, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) is the independent monitoring mechanism for UNCRPD in Ireland and works with the National Disability Authority (NDA) to carry out its task.

The NDA has confirmed to my officials that the most recently published Disability Census Report, some 4.6% of civil servants that made a return identified themselves as having a disability.

The Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities (2015-2024) (CES), provides a whole-of-government approach to improving the employment outcomes for persons with disabilities, across both private and public sectors. Work to implement the Strategy forms part of progressive realisation of Articles 26 and 27 within UNCRPD. Within the CES, there are commitments for public bodies to progress actions within their remit in order to improve employment practices, including for DPER as the body responsible for the Civil Service, with a target to progressively increase the 3% statutory employment target to 6% by 2024 for the Civil and Public Service.

My Department is committed within the CES to examining alternative recruitment routes for people with disabilities. The Public Appointment Service (PAS), which is an agency under my Department, is the lead recruiter for appointments at all levels to the Civil Service. PAS, working in conjunction with officials from my Department, has implemented a programme of work in the first 3 years of the CES and made significant progress in examining and improving how it attracts and recruits persons with disabilities to the Civil and Public Service.

The Deputy may be aware of the Oireachtas Work Learning (OWL) Programme which is an applied learning, development and socialisation programme for adults with an intellectual disability which was launched as a pilot programme in September 2018. It is facilitated by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service in collaboration with two sponsor organisations, KARE and WALK. The goal of the Programme is to provide trainees with the skills, knowledge and ability to gain meaningful employment via the unique opportunity to gain practical work experience as well as accredited learning over an 11 month period. Over a quarter of the initial OWL interns have since gone on to secure employment in the public service.

PAS also has a long-standing partnership with AHEAD on their Willing, Able, Mentoring (WAM) Programme. WAM offers graduates with a disability a six-month placement in the public service. PAS conduct the recruitment element of the process on behalf of AHEAD. Since 2005, 215 graduates have completed placements across the public service. PAS and DPER, in conjunction with AHEAD, are currently exploring the feasibility of a confined competition for a number of those graduates who successfully complete their placement in the civil service.

Both the OWL Programme and the proposed route to permanency for WAM graduates fulfil one of the goals of the CES in providing alternative routes of entry into the public service for people with disabilities. The NDA, in its independent advice and annual assessments of progress under the CES, have recommended that the internship model should have wider use across the civil and public service.

PAS has recently established a dedicated Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) function and has recently recruited for a Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion demonstrating an organisational commitment to build on ED&I best practice. Recently, an external consultant has been engaged by PAS to review the end-to-end candidate journey for people with disabilities from attraction to interview, assignment and beyond with a view to enhancing the candidate experience and transition into the workforce.

PAS will shortly launch its Business Strategy for the next 3 years, a central tenant of which will be to continue to build on ED&I initiatives, such as engagement with the OWL and WAM programmes. I am confident that PAS, with the support of my Department, will continue to collaborate with Civil and Public Service employers to attract talented staff from diverse backgrounds to work in an inclusive, disability-confident environment ensuring that we have a Civil and Public Service reflective of the modern Ireland that they serve.