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 in Ireland. It provides a mechanism for joined-up working to deliver on Ireland’s commitments to implementing the UNCRPD. The NDIS Steering Group, which oversees and monitors the implementation of the Strategy, has 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 this year. It is expected that the review 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) also plays a critical role 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.
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, the Deputy 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 in December 2016. 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. In January of this year, the IHREC established a Disability Advisory Committee, 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 NDIS.
Significant year-on-year budgetary increases in the disability sector have positively impacted the lived experience of people with disabilities in Ireland. However, I recognise that daily challenges remain for many people with disabilities and for 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.