My Department and the offices, agencies and bodies under my remit are fully committed to the implementation of the National Disability and Inclusion Strategy (NDIS) and are aware this can only be achieved with active engagement and collaboration with people with disabilities.
The Departmental Consultative Committee (DCC) provides a forum for engagement between Departmental officials, representatives of the National Disability Authority (NDA) and representatives of the Disability Stakeholders Group, particularly in relation to implementation of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy. It also provides an opportunity for my Department to update on current issues of interest and for the groups to raise issues that are of concern to them.
The DCC recently met to consider actions, ahead of reporting on Departmental NDIS actions at the NDIS Steering Committee meeting in June and will meet again in the autumn.
In a recent public consultation on hate speech, my Department drew significant learnings from a consultation workshop for people with disabilities and the input of those with lived experience of disability was extremely valuable in the consideration of policy and legislation measures.
The Department of Justice’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Committee is currently working to develop an ED&I strategy for Department. The draft objectives will focus on:
- Improving the accessibility and quality of our services;
- Supporting the development of a skilled and diverse workforce;
- Building and embedding a workplace culture which facilitates, supports and encourages contributions from all.
We are working to publish this strategy in the autumn. Simultaneously, the Customer Insights team are developing a Customer Service Action Plan for the Department and are working to include more ways to actively engage with people with disabilities.
The Deputy may wish to note the following examples across offices, agencies and bodies under the remit of the Department:
An Garda Síochána has a dedicated unit - the Garda National Diversity and Integration Unit - with responsibility for all external-facing issues relating to diversity and integration that require a policing response. Disability is one of the nine strands of diversity under the remit of the GNDIU.
The unit engages with stakeholders on an ongoing basis and is a point of contact for advice, guidance and support for all representative groups advocating on behalf of those with disabilities.
The GNDIU established a National Diversity Forum to monitor and review the implementation of the strategy and to act as a critical friend. The forum is made up of 15 representatives of communities and key stakeholders including the Policing Authority.
This forum has met on five occasions and is chaired by the Director of the Irish Network against Racism (INAR). The founder of the Irish Criminal Justice Disability Network (ICJDN) is a member of the forum and represents the interests of those with learning, intellectual and physical disabilities.
The Garda National Diversity Forum will continue to review progress on the implementation of all strategic objectives contained in the Diversity and Integration Strategy 2019-2021 over the lifetime of the strategy. While the monitoring function of the forum is to ensure An Garda Síochána carry out the commitments outlined in the strategy, it also provides a link to minority communities and provides a voice for those with concerns within those communities.
The Garda Síochána Inspectorate regularly engages with NGOs including those who represent people with disabilities to ensure that the rights and needs of people with disabilities are considered in the course of the Inspectorate fulfilling its statutory function.
The Legal Aid Board established a Consultative Panel a number of years ago to provide a forum to keep external stakeholders informed and updated , to facilitate stakeholders to provide feedback and assistance to the Board on its services from a user’s perspective.
The Panel meets three times a year. Current membership is published on the Board’s website and includes representatives from, among others, the Citizens Information Board and Sage Advocacy, whose engagement assists the Board in addressing how the legal needs of people with disabilities may be better met within the statutory framework in which the Board operates.
Disability Inclusion is included in the Policing Authority’s 2021 Stakeholder Engagement Plan. During the past year, the Authority has met with organisations who work with vulnerable adults on safeguarding issues, including people with disabilities.
The Probation Service is committed to supporting the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 and is focused on fostering a strong culture of equality, diversity and inclusion.
This is reflected within the Probation Service Strategic Statement which identifies inclusion as a key strategic priority for the organisation and outlines its ambition to deliver fair and accessible services to all. Specific measures include liaising with the Irish Criminal Justice Disability Network (ICJDN) to develop a bespoke training programme for probation staff in relation to disability awareness, and raising awareness and understanding of various forms of disabilities and promoting inclusive practices through the role of its Disability Liaison Officer (DLO) .
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) is focusing on actively engaging with persons with disabilities through its statutory reporting activities and associated research.