Ah, Summer. Ireland’s annual dull, warm July has kicked in, and everyone is a little brighter, even if the sky isn’t always. For some it’s the football, for others it’s the garden. And in a memorable year such as this, where we have lost so many of our most cherished stars and entertainers, we said goodbye (temporarily at least), to stable government (and all that goes with that), and the march of vulture capitalism continues apace, it is useful to stop and think – and perhaps reflect on the strides being made, and the progress needed, on the issues concerning rights and improvement in the lives of people with disabilities.
The election campaign seems an eon away now, but the resulting patchwork government has somehow given a glimmer of optimism – in our March issue this year, we mentioned the disconnect of Government and elected representatives from the concerns of the people, and although the same central party has been returned to power, it would appear that this disconnect is being addressed.
With the appointment of a Minister with Responsibility for Disability Issues, we have reason to be hopeful, that the yawning gap between the two Irelands (the haves and the have-nots), will be bridged in some way. Respectful engagement has been a luxury devoutly to be wished, and we will take a little confidence from recent developments that the structures of state and its employees may engage better from now on with people with disabilities, and also with parents and family. Perhaps now we can expect some meaningful participation (not just aspiration) for people with disabilities and their families in the planning and delivery of services.
The presence of the Minister with Responsibility for Disability Issues at the Personalised Funding conference gave reason to expect a little stronger leadership on social policy formulation by our legislators – it is possible to see how the marginalisation we have highlighted in these pages in previous issues may be addressed now, especially if focus is also brought to the issue of affordable housing. Perhaps we can expect the independent influence in government to use our recent strides forward in economic terms, to now promote the social conditions that will allow the full development of the human personality, as espoused by the Taoiseach and previous ministers in speeches over the years.
But we need to keep the impetus on active and results-focused participation in the formulation of service design and delivery of services for our people with disabilities and their families. This is imperative for mental health services as much as it is for those serving people with intellectual disabilities, and fitness for purpose is the key deliverable.
Let’s go a step further and say that this perspective has been lost or blurred by successive governments for a generation at least now, and it applies to most health and social services across the spectrum in this country and the wider EU. We need to keep mindful however, that the stability or otherwise of government has the potential to promote or destroy such aspirations, so we will need to get this message across to all of our politicians, and keep it in the open to ensure progress.
Some of our contributions this issue will shine a light on a number of efforts being promoted for this purpose.