Private Members' Business. - Disabled Persons (Employment) Bill, 1967: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

I should state briefly at the outset that the principle upon which the Bill is founded is that opportunities for employment shall be made available to disabled persons and that this shall be guaranteed by law. I must express regret at my inability to follow the procedure of the House in supplying or circulating a copy of my Second Reading speech. The reasons for that are obvious: I am not supported by a brigade of civil servants and must rely —to use a historic expression—on my own strength and, of course, on that of my gallant friends who are as interested in this measure as I am.

Practically every day we open a newspaper we discover some section of the community anxiously seeking to attach to itself as its own private property the term "underprivileged". One would be tempted to think it was a kind of banner to be seen and waved and one cannot but wonder at the sections of the population who carry it so proudly and, in some cases, so unjustifiably. "Underprivileged" is, I should imagine, an American word which has become part of the jargon of people who do not like the simplicity of "poverty", "hardship" or "want". "Underprivileged" connotes that one is in possession of some privileges but not enough. "Privilege", I understand, is defined as the possession of some advantage over another, some advantage, be it material, financial or spiritual.

In speaking of the disabled, I shall not apply to them the term "underprivileged" because they are people with no privileges, people deprived of fundamental rights, in many cases by accident of birth and in some cases by reason of what happened during their lives. Whatever their condition, I think it can truly be said of the disabled that they have been deprived of advantages which the ordinary citizen acquires by simply coming into the world. By the disabled, I do not mean those who are physically or obviously disabled: in the terms of this Bill the disabled are all those people who have to grapple as best they can with life and who in many cases are ill-equipped to do so because the life and society into which they have come are the society and life which we ourselves have made.

It is a matter for considerable reflection that in spite of the colossal advances that have been made in technical matters, even in matters artistic, in every sphere, one might say, of human activity, that so far as the inhumanity of man to fellowman is concerned—which, as has been said, "makes countless thousands mourn"—we do not appear to have progressed much since the beginning of civilisation whenever that was. Since it appears to be a fact that the most learned men cannot fix that time, I can hardly be expected to do so.

I do not ground the arguments for the Bill upon pity because that in itself is not an admirable argument on which to seek justice in any cause. I hesitate to use even the word "compassion", because there is about it a certain pomposity. I feel that this Bill is justified for reasons of practicability as well as for reasons of simple humanity. When one thinks of humanity, I dare say that we who live in this country are as humane as those who live elsewhere. I do not think we are any more humane nor do I think we are any less. We are just as liable to be disturbed when we hear of people in other lands who are deprived of their natural rights because of their colour, because of their blood group, because of their philosophical beliefs—and this is as it should be. But, to my mind, there is a certain selfindulgence in this sympathetic wincing at events which are taking place far away, places with strange sounding names, when, right in our own four green fields, there exists a problem for our own attention to which we might well turn our hand.

It is to enable Dáil Éireann to give this problem thought and attention that I bring forward this Bill. In doing so, I make no claim to any superior consideration of humanity than any other Member of this House. I know that we are all people who feel for the misfortunes of those whom we represent. There are differences of approach. the time has come when, I believe, we must translate our sentiments into positive action. The day when man's welfare, the welfare of disabled people, indeed, the welfare of anybody could be and should be left to the whim of fortune is long past. The world into which we are marching or strolling or being dragged or pushed—what term one should use correctly, it is difficult to say—the world into which we are moving, at any rate, is not a world of laissez faire, of come-day-go-day-God-send-Sunday. It is a world which has rejected altogether, and rightly so, the jungle notion that the race is to the swift, that the fittest only will survive and, as far as the rest are concerned, then God help them, we are sorry for them but it is the will of God. That notion has gone and all the communities making any legitimate claim to civilisation have long accepted that the central authority has on it an obligation and a responsibility so to regulate society as to ensure that, in so far as it lies within the compass of human endeavour, justice shall prevail.

It is not to be thought that we shall achieve absolute and pure justice in this Dáil or in the next Dáil, in our lifetime or in the lifetime of this nation or this race because perfection is something which apparently does not belong within the possibilities of human achievement. However, there is a realisation that, upon us all, is laid the obligation, particularly upon those of us who have the high honour to belong to a national Parliament and particularly on those of us who have the extremely high honour and the fortune to belong to Dáil Éireann, to do our bit, to do what we can to add to the sum of human happiness. This measure is designed to that end.

I have referred to the notion—I know there are advocates of the notion in this House as well, quite fossilised survivals of another age—that free and unhampered competition without any regulation whatsoever is the road to happiness. Invariably, this argument is made by people who have achieved security, whether by their own efforts or by the efforts perhaps of those who have gone before them, by hereditary advantage. There is the notion abroad and no doubt luck, an t-ádh, plays a part in every human situation. It was interesting to hear the Taoiseach on television on Friday or Saturday night last talking about this matter. The Taoiseach, a man commendably modest, it must be said, when he was asked about his arrival in his position of eminence, repeated what had been said to him by somebody in America, some wise American: Má bhíonn tú ar an gcoirnéal cheart den tsráid cheart ag an am ceart ar an lá ceart—if you are at the right corner of the right street at the right time. That can make up not 100 per cent of human events but a good 50 per cent. As I say, the Taoiseach, with his modesty and his honesty, admitted this fact. It is not often that one hears a politician admit these simple truths because they detract from the sin common to all politicians, that of vanity. However, that was said. I want to put it the other way. I want to turn that around and think of the unfortunates of the world and think of the disabled people, the disabled person who was at the wrong corner of the wrong street at the wrong time; in other words, who has not had that degree of fortune or luck which has attended the lives of others.

It is probably true to say that, with the advance of knowledge, the actual incidence of disablement itself, particularly congenital disablement, may be reduced in generations to come by the extension of the acquisition of further knowledge as to the root causes but that, for the moment, is something very much in the future. The problem with which we are faced, the problem which lies on the conscience of this country, is the problem of the disabled as they are. Of course, the solution would be made easier if we had full employment. We have not full employment. We have a progressively increasing unemployment figure. If one is to look at the future in a realistic way, there is no reason to suppose but that this figure may very well continue to increase if we are to face the winds of change which seem to be our lot in Europe.

Emphasis is given then to the need for this measure at this time, the need for this degree of protection for the disabled. When you have unemployment, substantial unemployment, the fittest naturally have a very considerable advantage in taking up whatever jobs there happen to be. In that kind of situation, even more so than in a condition where we might have—as we will, please God, one day, when we have a Government in power who have a proper view as to the needs of our Irish society—full employment, there is a greater need for a measure of this kind to be brought into operation on behalf of disabled people.

In my experience, there has been a great lack of proper appreciation of the potential which is represented by the many thousands of disabled people throughout the 26 Counties. How many thousands are there? If you try to find out, you will get no adequate or reliable answer. I have made inquiries in writing in different directions with the object of discovering an authoritative figure as to the number of disabled people, that is, people who are physically and may be deemed to be mentally disabled in Ireland. Nobody can tell you. There is no way, they say, of knowing.

It may be that the Minister for Labour will justify his existence in this particular. Indeed he would more than justify his existence and his political career if he were to undertake to discharge the duty of society in this matter. The first step is to discover how many disabled people there are. There were over 18,000 at the end of March of last year in receipt of disability benefit. This, of course, is no true indication of how many disabled people there were because this 18,000 would include people who are temporarily ill, out of work for reasons of a purely transient sickness. In the 18,000 there is a very considerable number, not apparently determinable because nobody has undertaken the task of trying to discover it, who are permanently disabled. These are people who are certified weekly by doctors as being incapable of taking up ordinary employment. As I say, this 18,000 is impossible to break down because there is no source to which one can go for the analysis.

There is a widespread misunderstanding in regard to disabled people. When disabled people are thought of, they are usually seen in the mind's eye as people who are physically deprived and they are usually thought of as persons of not great, and often very minimal, education. For this reason they are regarded, mistakenly, by large numbers as a kind of an appendage, a lower appendage of the workingclass. This is a misconception and a grave one. Some of the greatest people the world has ever seen have been people who were disabled. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was disabled; Fintan Lalor was disabled; Toulouse Lautrec was disabled. The Minister has heard of him?

I have indeed.

Michael Davitt.

Michael Davitt had one arm, an extraordinary man, described by one of the bishops as a strolling man of whom nobody should take heed in those days. Some of the greatest people the world has seen, and certainly this nation has seen, have been people who could fall within the category of those who must apply for disablement benefit. I say this in an endeavour to wipe out the impression which is so erroneously obtained by so many that disablement is confined to one particular group of society. One of the greatest public servants that we ever saw in this country was a man who suffered from a physical disability, a man whose mind and energies were unsurpassed and unsurpassable.

I often think, and I am sure the Minister and any reasonable person will agree, that with disability there is a law of compensation at work which usually provides the disabled with an intense desire and drive to prove to themselves that they have the dignity common to other men, that they have the right to walk as equals with other men. This natural compensation exists and results not alone in enabling them to prove themselves as good as others but in very many cases to prove themselves to be far superior to the rest of mankind. It could be said, that physical handicap is a goad to achievement.

At times we have all decried in this House the loss to the nation resulting from children having to leave school before their full educational potential had been developed, and these were normal children. Here is a world of relatively unexplored potential. We will need to mobilise in Ireland all the talent we can in industry, in commerce, in the professions, in every direction, if we are to survive in the tough conditions which lie ahead of us. We are a diminishing population. I am not laying the blame on this Government now for that. This is a trend which has continued. The Government, of course, have their own responsibility for it but the Government did not start emigration. Emigration seems to have been inherent in the nation since the Famine and has continued uninterruptedly since the Famine. With communications as they are, with the alleged attractions of England being made more apparent to the youth through television, and so on, with simplicity of travel, the availability of transport to a degree that did not exist before, it would appear that the population may continue in this disastrous downward direction. If we visualise a declining population, it follows that we should lose no opportunity to foster talent wherever we can find it. I am as sure as I am standing here that in the ranks of the disabled there is a reservoir of talent and perhaps flashes of genius which, if not encouraged and given a chance to develop, may be lost to us.

The measure which I propose is designed to enable the disabled to display such qualities as they may have. It is not alone for those who may be outstanding that I am concerned. I mention them merely as people who inevitably will develop if the Bill becomes law. I am concerned mainly with the broad mass of disabled persons who never get a chance.

I know that there are quite a large number of societies—I think, 30— caring for physically handicapped persons of one kind or another. No words are needed from me in praise of those who run these societies and the noble, magnificent, self-sacrificing work of rehabilitation in which so many of these agencies and so many private citizens are engaged. But the State should not be content to allow matters to rest at that. Voluntary effort must be encouraged and praised and fostered in every way but there is a need for conscious regulation on the part of the central authority and an urgent need for it in order to ensure that the disabled worker will be given a chance —that is all we ask—a chance to live. That is all that this Bill seeks for the disabled—a chance to live.

Nobody need tell me that if two men apply for a job, one of whom is obviously able—bodied whereas the other is obviously disabled, the disabled man will get the job. We should try to put ourselves as a society into the mind of a worker who suffers from some disability and who has no way of concealing it. Not all children are little angels. Children can be very cruel to one another. If a child has some disability which he cannot conceal, it sometimes happens that his playmates make life more difficult for him. As the child grows, life does not become any easier. He finds himself pushed aside in the rush for advantage in the world as we know it, in the ruthless kind of society in which people have been brought up to push aside everybody in the path of self-advancement.

What chance has a disabled person in that struggle? Yet, by dint of this tremendous compensatory quality with which they are endowed, some disabled persons manage, not alone to survive in that unpleasant and awful, deadly struggle, but to get ahead of others. But of the majority, of the many thousands whose number we cannot determine, whose number the Minister will not be able to say and whose number apparently nobody is able to say—none of these societies, nobody interested in the subject, is able to say how many of these there are—we do not know how many will be made to suffer to a degree far beyond that which is apparent by their obvious external disabilities.

In the last year and a half, we had great parades—I am not against parades or introducing a bit of colour into our lives—and we have commemorated and we are commemorating the gallant men of other years, and rightly so. They say of the Irish—and talking of ourselves among ourselves we can say things which are not always the most pleasant but which we would take as deadly insults if they were said by outsiders—that we are a great race for commemorations, and it is true. When a man is safely dead, he was the greatest man in the world. I remember that in my own lifetime in connection with one of the greatest social reformers this country ever saw and who was scarified and blackguarded into the ground right up to the moment, practically, when he breathed his last breath and overnight, because he was dead, he was almost canonised. That is one of our faults.

We have in the hall here, given to us by the late Mr. Seán T. O'Kelly, the copy of the Proclamation, a wonderful literary effort, bearing on it the mark of literary nobility and the great talent of James Connolly and the others, the poets, who were with him. It bears the words "to cherish all the children of the nation equally." At times it seems to me that this means nothing. What does "to cherish all the children of the nation equally" mean? It meant something to those men. It must have meant something to them, or else why would they have gone to their death, an awful, ugly, cruel death? What does it mean to us, to this Dáil which came into existence because of what they did? Do we cherish all of the children of the nation equally? Of course, we do not cherish them equally. Some amongst us, I am certain, do their best to achieve this end but there are others who do not seem to give a damn one way or another as long as they are here. As was remarked by Dr. Johnson of a politician, he remembered he had a salary to draw but forgot that he had a duty to perform.

There are some, I am afraid, who fall within that category, who do not seem to care very much. However, there are others, and they are not confined to any one side of the House; they are to be found even in the Front Benches and in the back benches on all sides, who do really care. This, of course, to the cynical who regard all politicians as mountebanks, may come as a surprise but there are in all Parties people who feel about social problems and who would not be here if they did not, whose only interest in being in the Dáil is to try to grasp this sorry scheme of things and remould it nearer to the heart's desire. There is no greater degradation then the degradation of idleness. There is no greater joy in life than the joy which comes from congenial work; there is know greater reaction, when all is said and done, when the pubs have emptied out and the fires of youth are banked down, than the work which one likes to do. There is a lot of truth in the words of the old preachers that an idle mind is the devil's workshop. It is in this spirit that I ask the House to accept the proposition that I am putting forward here, that we should guarantee to disabled people, to the most helpless section of our community, a right to work, a chance to live.

Within the past couple of months, I heard about a boy whom I knew as an infant and who at the age of five years was stricken with polio. All his right side, his right arm and leg, were badly affected. However, he was fortunate because he shone at lessons and he applied himself with the energy to which I have referred to the task of learning and scholarship. He did his leaving certificate last year and he got honours in four subjects, including Irish and two foreign languages. He can write with his left hand far better than most of us can with our right hand. He cannot write at all with his right hand. He was looking for a job and he wrote 60 applications in reply to advertisements and there was not a hope for him, not a hope. The position may have improved now but that was the situation at the time. I do not think this is an isolated case. There are many cases, perhaps very much worse, but we do not hear about them. They are not brought to our notice.

As well as this disinclination on the part of the State and the central authority to do something for the disabled, there is also a tendency, I am afraid, amongst certain sections of the population to try to conceal disablement in children. This is a sort of a follow through of the old attitude which existed years ago towards other diseases, notably tuberculosis. We all know people who will not mention the word "cancer" for fear of it. This concealment of tuberculosis in other years, particularly amongst families in rural areas, had economic connotations. We were all aware that a girl with tuberculosis did not have as good prospects of marriage as a healthy girl. There is still a carry over of that attitude among certain sections of the population which militates against the improvement of the lot of the disabled.

The boy I mentioned is just one instance. There are many other instances. I had a man with me this afternoon who had heard about this Bill. He lives in Ballyfermot, rather inevitably, I suppose. He tells me that he was a soldier in the Army for 21 years. About ten years ago he developed tuberculosis and was hospitalised in St. Bricin's. He was discharged after 21 years' service with active tuberculosis. He went from St. Bricin's to Peamount Sanatorium where he spent a year. He is a married man with three children, the eldest being 12 years. As I said, he spent a year in Peamount and it was discovered that he had what is called a kidney disease. He tells me that a gastroectomy was performed in 1959, if I have the medical term correctly.

It would be poor treatment for a bad kidney.

Doctors differ.

A gastroectomy is the removal of the stomach.

I knew that "gastro" was related in some way to the stomach. It may have been additional to the other treatment. Let us not treat this matter with levity.

I do not. The Deputy asked me if he had the medical term correctly.

And the Minister said it was poor treatment for a bad kidney.

There may be two separate illnesses.

At any rate, the kidney was removed. You can see by the man that he is not in the whole of his health, to put it mildly, by just talking to him. He was in touch with another Member of this House to whom I will not refer by name, a Deputy who also represents the area of Ballyfermot, a person in some authority, who should have been able to help him. He got a letter from the Department of Social Welfare dated 7th December, just in the mouth of Christmas, which said:

I am refer to your recent enquiry regarding your claim to disability benefit and to state that benefit has been paid to and including 3rd December, 1966. Your claim was disallowed after that date following a second examination by a Medical Referree who again expressed the opinion that you were capable of light work. Your claim has now been reviewed and it has been decided to resume payment of benefit for a period of twelve months from this date....

The amount he is getting for himself, his wife and three children is £5 18s a week. The point is that he does not want £5 18 s a week for doing nothing. He wants a job doing light work. Through the good offices of the Deputy to whom I referred previously, he was sent for interview for a job in a Government Department of a nature suited to his abilities, but he was turned down. Why? On medical grounds. He was deemed not to be capable of doing the job. This is another example of what happens. This man is anxious to work. He wants to work and in his own mind he is able to work, but that is too much to ask in this enlightened Christian society.

The 18,000 people to whom I referred earlier get disabled persons' allowances to the amount of 47/6 a week only if they can prove they are destitute. We know the definition of "destitute" from question and answer here last week. If a person has a bed in the house, it does not matter if there are no clothes on it, he is not destitute. That is counted as income of 1/- per week under our philanthropic dispensation in the matter of social laws. So a person has to prove destitution to get the 47/6d. The people who founded the Minister's Party, and the people who founded this State, used to talk about the British poor law. Dickens made a fortune writing about some aspects of it. There was a television personality who was never done talking about it on British television. He has now gone to his reward, whatever that might be. The poor law was a better proposition than this. This method of treatment and the amounts which are paid to these unfortunate people are worse than the British poor law.

As I said, there were over 18,000 of these people on 31st March last, plus 161 persons undergoing rehabilitation. Of that huge concourse of people, 18,500, 161 persons were undergoing rehabilitation. If I made no other arguments for the intervention of the State, or the central authority, or the Government, in this matter ment is eloquent enough. Most jobs that become available, if they are what can be called decent jobs with wages within reasonable limits, and if they have any security of employment attached to them, have also got a medical examination attached to them.

This is part of the philosophical attitude of some, not all, employers. It would not be fair or right to say it applies to all employers, but of a very great proportion of our native-grown employing class it is true to say that when they look for labour they want the best; they want them in perfect condition. In many cases, and certainly in regard to State employment, they have medical examinations before jobs are allocated, medical examinations for jobs which do not require medical examinations, jobs which would not impose any strain or necessitate strenuous activity—desk jobs, as they could be described. Why should there be a medical examination for jobs such as that? Why should the disabled be barred from jobs of that kind when they are the people who could discharge such jobs, I would say with certainty as effectively as, perhaps more effectively than, those who are lucky enough to be sound in mind and limb?

I want to refer now to those who are unfortunate enough to be blind. The Minister I know has circularised a number of organisations and asked for their views on this Bill. I hope he has included the National League of the Blind, which is the most representative body concerning itself with the affairs of the blind in Ireland. I have here a report over the name of Mr. Patrick Lyons, the general secretary of the National League of the Blind. I should like to read this paragraph from it:

In endeavouring to assess a problem, there are few things so frustrating as the inability to obtain such factual information as can be quoted with any degree of accuracy, and this is where our problems begin—in other words we are unable to say with any degree of certainty the actual extent of blindness in this part of Ireland. The number of registered blind persons is generally given as about 7,000, but this figure, while no doubt being an approximation to reality, cannot be taken as accurate, because of the absence of a proper system of registration, and of a uniform definition of blindness. This is why we urge as one of our objectives, the compiling by the appropriate Government Department of a proper register of blind persons with a view to the prevention of blindness where possible. We further recommend the acceptance both by the State and local authorities of a uniform definition of blindness.

There it will be seen—and I had no pre-knowledge of this report—that the views of Mr. Lyons, who must be regarded as an expert in this field because he is secretary of the organisation, coincide with mine, deduced quite independently of his. The eloquence of these words is such that I think I should read them for the record:

We have, I hope, average intelligence, and the genius or the backward person is as much the exception among the blind as in any other section of the community. Blindness is a disability which imposes certain limitations. The nature and extent of such limitations may depend in great measure on the person so handicapped, or on the circumstances under which blindness came about. Never generalise about blind people. The only common bond linking us may well be our inability to see. Apart from this single factor sightless people vary enormously in interests, attitudes and temperaments.

I commend to the Minister close study of this document which, I feel, if he has not got it he will be provided with, because it opens a window for us fortunate ones on the minds of those who are not quite so fortunate.

This Bill which I propose will be hailed by the blind and by all other disabled people as a boon, but I do not claim any credit for that. I am ashamed that it was not brought here long ago. In drafting the Bill, I had the privilege of leaning upon British legislation in this matter, enlightened British Labour legislation. Twentyfour years ago the British introduced a Bill of this kind. For 24 years in England the disabled have been looked after in the manner which I propose here. It may be stated that 24 years ago there was a war on in England. It is true that often, to coin a phrase, "out of evil cometh good". War does produce, now and again, strange results. The last war gave us penicillin, for instance, as well as other things. It gave us this Bill which was put on the Statute Book in England.

Hansard covering that period makes fascinating reading, because quite apart from the question of war disabled who were being dealt with, at least 50 per cent of the discussion on the Bill as it went through the British House of Commons had to do with people who were disabled for congenital reasons or through accidents in industry. In Britain, of course, they had a long history of industrial accidents, particularly in the mines, but, as I say, I had the privilege of reading the discussion that took place there. Indeed, in my own experience of workers, I visited labour exchanges in and about Camden Town and other places when I was looking for work myself in bygone years. I have seen the operation of the legislation in relation to disabled persons in Britain. Like all legislation, it cannot be described as the last word in social justice but, without question, it represents a tremendous improvement there. It is not an improvement vis-àvis the situation here because here we are dependent upon the good nature and public spirit of a number of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other people of that kind. These are limited in number and limited in scope. That is all we have here apart from the workshop for the blind and a few other employment outlets for the disabled.

Guaranteeing work to those who require it is the fundamental principle enshrined in this Bill. I understand that the Minister last week tried to jump the gun in this matter. I do not care what he does so long as we get results.

It was the Deputy's colleagues who jumped the gun.

No. If I might pursue this without disorder, I should be very much obliged. I want to make the issue very clear. The people who take up this work of rehabilitation, as it is called, voluntarily are beyond praise. They should be embraced in whatever institutions are set up, on a national advisory council, or provincial or regional councils. But the principle I seek to establish is that the State will lay it down as the law that in every firm in which there are considerable numbers of workers, beginning with the Civil Service, going on to the semi-State bodies, to the local authorities, to those industries which are helped by the State and those industries which employ large numbers of workers, a minimal percentage of jobs will be provided for these people. I want the Government to tell employers that it is their duty to employ disabled from the register in certain jobs and, if they do not do so, they will be guilty of a breach of the law. That is the principle. I hope there will be no evasion of it. It is a principle the initiation of which here is long overdue. I have asked questions about this in the past but I never got anywhere. I hoped at one stage that redundancy amongst Ministers and the changes in personnel would eventually throw up somebody with an enlightened outlook who would do this as a member of the Government so that neither I nor anybody else would have to fight for it.

I come now to what is, perhaps, the most difficult and complex aspect of what is described as rehabilitation, namely, the employment of the disabled. I want to deal in this context with the problem of the mentally retarded. I have looked through the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Mental Handicap which was issued in 1965. The Commission was constituted of eminent, interested and dedicated people. They examined the situation in relation to mental care, treatment and education, particularly the education of young people mentally retarded. They presented a document which is very useful as far as it goes. It gives a picture of the situation. They made recommendations in regard to improvements in methods of care of the mentally sick. They suggested the initiation of steps to enable little children to be educated at least in part.

The problem is unquestionably complex. I have some acquaintance with mental hospitals in this city. I was a member of the Old Grangegorman Joint Board, as were other Members of this House. I have had occasion to visit patients in mental hospitals. I want now to pay a special tribute to that small group of employers in Dublin who have endeavoured to provide occupational therapy for certain of these patients. To people such as those who are already employed, this Bill, if it comes into effect, will not make any real difference. These employers are already doing the good work set out in the Bill. Unfortunately, not all, and indeed very few, employers have that interest in the people to whom I refer. The Report of the Commission did, as I say, an excellent job in its own way, but it did not propose a solution. I suppose it takes temerity for anybody to presume that he has a solution to the rehabilitation of mentally ill people or the provision of employment for them.

This is the big problem of our age, the biggest problem and one in relation to which we feel particularly helpless. It is something, nevertheless, which we have to face. It is the problem of the future and I have not the slightest doubt that, as time goes on and as technology develops and medicine develops, some answers will be found for the multifarious aspects of the mentally distressed. Given all that, remember the famous statement of the man to whom I referred earlier as one of the most eminent of disabled men— James Fintan Lalor, the hunchback from outside the Heath of Maryboro, the man with the gift of imagination and foresight. What did he say? "Somewhere, somehow and by somebody a beginning must be made." A beginning must be made here with the colossal problem of ensuring that those who are mentally ill, retarded, and who are capable of being put to work if provided with the opportunity will be provided for.

Again, in this matter of the numbers of people who may be described as mentally handicapped, it is difficult to get conclusive figures. For instance, in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry there is a totally different set of figures from those given in the document produced by the Department of Health, "The Problem of the Mentally Handicapped". I shall refer to the document issued by the Department of Health because I think that the incumbent, at the time at any rate, of that office was a man on whose word one could rely. It says that there are 18,000 mildly handicapped people in the country and 4,800 moderately handicapped people. In other words, it is reasonable to say that there are approximately 23,000 mentally handicapped people who could be brought, with an effort, within some distance of proving themselves useful citizens. What greater cure can there be for such people than to be restored to the companionship of fellow workers and to join in the ordinary business of life? It does not seem to me that enough is being done in this regard. In so far as this Bill can help, or urge, or if necessary, compel greater attention to, and speed up, the task of bringing those who are mentally handicapped, moderately or mildly as described in this document, and who can work, nearer to the therapy of daily work, I want to urge it on the Minister.

In the document on mental handicap issued by the Department of Health, paragraph 31, page 10, says: "The placing in employment with adequate after-care of patients who have been trained in residential institutions and who are capable of employment has already been mentioned. How should such placing and after-care be organised and who should be responsible for it?" There is a question mark after that and that is what we are left with—a question mark. It is in an endeavour to answer that question that I have tabled this Bill. I tabled it, seeing that nobody else is bothering.

I have urged on the Minister as best I can the considerations which prompted me to table the Bill. First of all the Bill provides for the establishment of a register; it provides that every disabled person in the country shall, if he or she so desires, apply to have his or her name included in the register of disabled people. The Bill also provides for substantial employers, and the definition of a "substantial employer" is left completely to the Minister. It can be discussed with voluntary bodies—the National Advisory Council and, I suppose, the provincial councils or regional councils. The definition of a substantial employer can be determined by the Minister and these other parties.

The Bill provides that every substantial employer shall, as determined by the Minister, be required to take into employment a percentage of disabled people. I must emphasise that it does not at any stage or in any particular require that there should be any disemployment of people in existing jobs. There will be no interference whatsoever, if this Bill becomes law, with those in existing jobs. It refers only to vacancies in the future.

I ask the Minister to give this Bill serious and urgent consideration. He will also have consultation with the National Advisory Council, if the Bill becomes law, or if the principle is accepted, and I do not care what he does with the Bill if he accepts the principle. All I want to get, as I have said twice, or possibly three times, before, is a chance in life for disabled people, a chance for them to live in the same way as other citizens.

The Bill also provides that the Minister will be able to determine, or each employer will—and I stress particularly the Civil Service, semi-State bodies and the local authorities—what the quotas will be. He will also, in consultation with the parties to whom I have referred, be enabled by the Bill to designate particular jobs as suitable to be filled only by disabled people.

Debate adjourned.