Deputy Séan Fleming from Fianna Fáil has a strong record on enhancing and promoting the rights of people with disabilities. During our time in Government, there was a dramatic change in terms of legislation, planning, specialist service provision and access to mainstream services and activities for people with disabilities. To that end, the first National Disability Strategy was developed and commenced. The Strategy set out a comprehensive package of legislation, policies and targets. In addition, thousands of day, residential and respite care places were created and a mandatory quota for the employment of people with disabilities in public services was also put in place. These are just some examples of the progress we achieved in Government.
Unfortunately, over the course of the last 5 years much of the infrastructure required by people with disabilities to lead full and independent lives has been dismantled and people with disabilities have experienced substantial reductions to their income and services. The latest statistics from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) shows that the deprivation rate for those not at work due to illness or disability was 51.3% in 2014. It is clear that significant changes need to be made to ensure that people with disabilities are able to live their lives as full and equal citizens, entitled to not only dignity and respect, but also independence, choice and control over their own lives. As a public representative I have witnessed first-hand the impact that a disability can have on the individual and their family. In the Dáil I have personally called for local authorities to include plans for people with disabilities in their county development plans. Measures such as these can go a long way towards mainstreaming disability policy and bringing about effective change at a local level.
It is clear that reform is needed on many levels, not least in the area of early intervention. While it is proven that early intervention can lead to very positive outcomes, the current waiting lists for assessment and treatment for essential therapies is having a detrimental impact on the lives of children with disabilities. Fianna Fáil believes that this is an area that should be prioritised and will substantially increase the number of therapists and end the scandal of excessive waiting lists. We will also increase funding to hasten the process of moving people with disabilities from unsuitable and often demeaning institutions to communities. We will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and reform the system to make it more responsive to the needs of people with disabilities. These are just some of the measures that we will put in place. The legacy of our tenure in Government will be an Ireland in which people with disabilities have the services and resources that they require to live their lives as they see fit, and as independent, full and equal citizens.