Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 17 May 1994

Vol. 442 No. 8

Adjournment Debate. - Ennis (Clare) Rehabilitation Centre.

There is great anxiety, annoyance and outrage at the rumour of the imminent closure of the National Rehabilitation Centre in Ennis, County Clare. The secretary of the Disabled People of Clare, Mr. Dermot Hayes, and CPI contacted me about this matter.

There are 6,000 disabled people in County Clare and the unit has been a tremendous help to them. It is rumoured that the centre will close on Thursday and, if that is so, it will cause great inconvenience and hardship to the disabled in Clare and the surrounding area. Disabled people are often paid low wages and incur hidden costs. They would experience great hardship and inconvenience if they were asked to travel from Clare to Limerick, as those interested in promoting work for the disabled are aware.

The Government has always placed great emphasis on equality for the disabled. The Ministers for Health and Law Reform have emphasised that equality must be sought at every opportunity through our laws. Society's attitude towards the disabled has changed and the new directive on access to buildings has been implemented.

The National Rehabilitation Board should be facilitated in every way to continue their work in County Clare. The board may feel it has no option but to move to Limerick for financial reasons. I hope the Minister will give as much support and assistance as possible to ensure that the office remains in County Clare. We would like the office to be manned by able bodied persons and by a member of the disabled community to give practical advice and help. The Disabled People of Clare have promoted this positive development.

The issue of integrating the disabled into the workforce has been raised in the House and in committees. We have not yet reached the 3 per cent quota for the disabled in the public service. I hope we will do so as soon as possible.

The NRB in Ennis provides an important service which needs to be continued. In County Clare 6,000 people avail of the service. I acknowledge their work and the help they have given to people on a national, regional and county basis. I hope the Minister will use his good offices to ensure the continuation of the NRB office in Ennis. I look forward to his reply.

The National Rehabilitation Board operates under the aegis of my Department with responsibility for providing or arranging for the provision of a range of services for people with disabilities; advising the Minister for Health, public authorities and other organisations providing services to people with disabilities; and taking initiatives to increase awareness of disability issues among decision-makers and the general public.

The principal services provided by the NRB include the provision of information to people with disabilities and the public on all disability related issues, occupational guidance for people with disabilities, psychological assessment, links to training and further education for people with disabilities, employment supports for people with disabilities actively seeking employment and the State audiology service, i.e. hearing testing, hearing aids and repairs, to all hearing impaired children and all adult medical card holders.

The NRB is also responsible for managing the effective disbursement of European Social Funds for training and other initiatives aimed at the occupational integration of people with disabilities. It is also involved in the creation of awareness of disability issues through conferences, competitions, training, and the media and conducts an ongoing programme of research into disability and rehabilitation.

Services are provided through a network of eight regions with a total of 17 offices based in 16 counties. The NRB has neither the financial nor human resources to have an office in each county, nor is this deemed necessary by the board. The 17 offices are situated in the locations which the NRB considers to be most strategically positioned for the delivery of services. I had the pleasure of opening a number of new offices during the past 12 months.

Services to ten counties and many significantly sized towns are provided from the NRB offices located outside the county. Among these are Longford, Meath, Monaghan, Roscommon, Drogheda, Roscrea, Portlaoise etc. The NRB's western region covers Limerick city and county, north Tipperary, Clare and Galway city and county. Services for the region emanate from two offices, one in Galway city, and the other in Limerick city which is its western regional headquarters. In the past year the Galway office has been extensively upgraded and a new custom built office has been provided in Limerick city which is specifically designed to respond to the service needs of all disabilities. All NRB administrative services for counties Clare, Limerick and north Tipperary are based in the NRB's Limerick office. The NRB is satisfied that this arrangement represents the most effective use of resources as well as providing the best possible level of customer services.

The NRB does not have a public office in County Clare. It has had an informal arrangement for the use of a small room in the Mid-Western Health Board training centre in Ennis. Due to an expansion of the training centre the health board requires the room used by the NRB. NRB services for people with disabilities in County Clare will continue to be provided from NRB Limerick and will not be diminished in any way. This arrangement is identical to that already operating satisfactorily in other counties without NRB offices. Many of these counties and towns would have a customer population in excess of County Clare.

The NRB is satisfied that the arrangements in place for the provision of services in County Clare are on a par with those available throughout the country and that the level of services will not be affected in any way by the unavailability of the small room in the health board training centre. The board will endeavour to continue to improve its services to people with disabilities in all its regions.

Will the centre be closed down on Thursday?

I do not know.

I hope the Minister will use his good offices to ensure that it is not closed.

The health board is using the office for training, which is very welcome.

While training is very welcome, accommodation must be found for the NRB in Ennis.

I wish to inform the House that the issue raised by Deputy Avril Doyle had been selected by me but the Deputy subsequently withdrew the matter.

The Dáil adjourned at 6.50 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 May 1994.